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Machete

USA 2010
produced by
Elizabeth Avellan, Aaron Kaufman, Iliana Nikolic, Robert Rodriguez, Rick Schwartz, Ashok Amritaj (executive), Alan Bernon (executive), Anthony Gudas (executive), Myles Nestel (executive) for Troublemaker Studios, Overnight Films, Dune Entertainment
directed by Robert Rodriguez, Ethan Maniquis
starring Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson, Shea Whigham, Lindsay Lohan, Daryl Sabara, Gilbert Trejo, Ara Celi, Tom Savini, Billy Blair, Felix Sabates, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan, Marci Madison, Vic Trevino, Mayra Leal, Alejandro Antonio, Juan Gabriel Pareja, Alicia Rachel Marek, Jason Douglas, Mitchell Lance Adams, Brent Smiga, Chris Warner, Jim Henry, Tina Rodriguez, Roland Ruiz, Greg Ingram, Tito Larriva, Cheryl Chin, Hugo Perez, Nina Leon, Doran Ingram, James Brownlee, Nimród Antal, Dimitrius Pulido, Scott Jefferies, Edgar Arreola, Tommy Nix
written by Robert Rodriguez, Álvaro Rodriguez, music by John Debney, Carl Thiel

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Years ago, Machete (Danny Trejo) was a top cop in Mexico, but then drug kingpin Torrez (Steven Seagal) killed his family, and Machete even had to learn that his own boss was on Torrez's payroll.

Now, Machete is an illegal immigrant and day laborer in Texas, at a time when vigilante groups like the one led by Von Jackson (Don Johnson) shoot illegal immigrants on sight, and crooked politicians like John McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) try to enforce tougher immigration laws, try to build an electric fence between Texas and Mexico, and secretly support the vigilantes. Of course, McLaughlin is also on Torrez's payroll, mainly because Torrez thinks an electric fence between Mexico and Texas would get him control over the drug-traffic between the two countries.

In that climate, Machete is hired by Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey) to assassinate McLaughlin - but the whole thing is just a setup, aqnd ultimately another gunman sees to it that Machete does not get a shot at the senator and shoots McLaughlin in the leg instead ... because you know, Booth is actually McLaughlin's campaign manager and figures if the senator is injured by an assassination attempt by what appears to be an illegal immigrant, that would give his campaign a much-needed boost. Now this part of the plan works out nicely, too, but Booth actually planned for Machete to be killed while trying to escape the scene of the crime, and this just does not work out, as Machete just slaughters everybody standing in his way. And once he has gotten away, Machete starts to investigate the whole affair, aided by (of all people) an immigration officer (Jessica Alba), a woman (Michelle Rodriguez) who aids illegal immigrant from her taco booth, and a priest (Cheech Marin), and ultimately he can uncover the whole truth, which leads to a big shootout between Von Jackson and his gang of vigilantes and Machete's immigrant friends, a duel between Machete and Torrez (guess who wins), and McLaughlin being mistaken for an illegal immigrant and shot by the very vigilantes he secretly supported ...

 

A film based on a fake vintage trailer featured in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse, Machete is pretty much exactly the film you'd expect it to be, it's loud-mouthed, self-ironic, full of action, it's for the most part brilliantly paced, and it's pleasently reminiscent of 1970's action cinema it claims to pay hommage to.

In a word, Machete is good fun, and in commenting on misguided US-American immigration policies, it's not half as silly as one would expect it to be ... and yet, Machete could have been much better: Problem is, the film is somewhat overcrowded by too many characters, and at least three central characters - Steven Seagal's drug kingpin, Jessica Alba's immigrations officer and Lindsay Lohan as Jeff Fahey's daughter - could have been cut from the story without comprimising its message ... and to be quite honest, the three of them give some of the least convincing performances of the film anyhow, actingwise - even though Robert De Niro, a long haul from former brilliance, is giving them a run for their money in terms of underwhelming characterisations (let's face it, he was never any good at comedy). Also, the film starts out quite explosive with a few nice action setpieces, but the final shoot-out is definitely less than inventive or exhilarating, and the fencing duel between Steven Seagal and Danny Trejo which is supposed to be the climax of the finale is crude at best.

All that said, the film is still quite enjoyable, it's just not the film it could have been.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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