' ' Cinema Romantico: Machete

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


-"You've reached the voicemail of Danny Trejo. Leave a message and I'll get back to you."

-"Danny. Hey. It's Robert Rodriguez. What's up, hoss? How you doin'? Listen, I wanted to run an idea by you. Remember that fake preview we had you shoot for the whole 'Grindhouse' thing? 'Machete?' Where you go around killing everybody with a, well, you know. I'm thinking of expanding that into a feature film. Seriously, man, it'll be great. You should do it. I think I might be able to get DeNiro to play a part. He owes me for the one thing. We'll sell the whole movie in the guise of it being all about immigration reform but really it's just about, you know, lots and lots of killing and lots and lots of blood and I've got this super cool idea storyboarded about Cheech Marin getting crucified and we'll get Michelle Rodriguez in an eyepatch and, oh, right, we've got Jessica Alba and Lindsay Lohan lined up too. You'll get to make out with Jessica Alba AND see Lindsay Lohan's what-have-yas. How many actors can say that? Am I right, bro? It's a can't miss! So give me a call back."

Yes, yes, yes, I'm fully aware "Machete" (2010) is just supposed to be a brainless B Movie. And that's what it is. And that's fine. Except, you know, a good majority of brainless B movies are bad. Not, as they say, so bad it's good, just bad. Couldn't "Machete" have been a little entertaining? The root of the problem - as much as if I say it I'm opening myself up to the possibility that the person who I'm about to criticize will track me down and inflict harm on me - is its leading man. Remember how in "Heat" Danny Trejo is one of the quartet of bank robbers? And remember that critical sequence where they realize Pacino is on 'em and they are discussing if they should just walk away? All four of them - DeNiro, Kilmer, Sizemore and Trejo - are present in this scene and yet the director, Michael Mann, presents it as varying shots of just DeNiro, Kilmer and Sizemore until the final wide shot when we realize Trejo has been there the whole time. Why? Did Mann see the footage of Trejo in this scene and tell the editor, "That guy can't act. Hide him." I'm sorry but Danny Trejo in "Machete" is so boring. Dude can't carry a movie. This is the plain truth. His gruff sameness can be ideal in certain supporting roles but here it becomes obsolete in about 15 minutes.

Tragically, he's matched by most of the rest of the cast. Robert DeNiro as Texas Sentaor John McLaughlin has an accent that might be the epitome of comes-and-goes and Steven Seagal has apparently gained so much weight that Rodriguez can't even hope to disguise it in the "climactic" swordfight and Jessica Alba....my God in Heaven, Jessica Alba is a bad actress. That's mean. I know it is. And I'm sorry. But, well, look, I shouldn't be a government spy and Rebecca Black shouldn't be singing and Jessica Alba shouldn't be acting. That's just the way it is. Rodriguez gives her the best speech in the whole movie and she turns it into toxic river sludge on account of her ceaslessly wispy delivery. "We didn't cross the border! The border crossed us!" Sure, Malcolm X is rolling in his grave at the sound of that but you get the right actress/actor shouting that line and it could be golden mozarella. Instead it's just utterly inert. You know who gives the best performance in this movie?

Lindsay Lohan. Scout's honor. Her role is kind of irrelevant but she seems to be the only one with any grasp of how to play this material. Genuinely tongue-in-cheek. She's about to wink at the audience....and then doesn't. Her personal life, of course, has become the Wreck Of The Edumund Fitzgerald and this is just a sad reminder that if she could clean herself up she could be a legitimate star. So it is.

Robert Rodriguez, meanwhile, has lost all sense of style with his need to make B movies. Recall, if you will, that gunfight in "Desperado" where Banderas takes on the whole bar that was gorgeously operatic in both its staging and extravagance. Now Rodriguez just puts a standstill person on camera shooting a machine gun (at who knows what - he often doesn't even bother with logistics) and expects it to work as a payoff all on its lonesome. Ugh. Is he purposely trying to make awful B movies since that's what the bulk of B movies are - awful? Who knows? All I know is "Machete" taught me two important lessons, neither of which had anything to do with immigration reform.

1.) I really don't belong in the grindhouse. 2.) Evelyn Salt could kick Machete's ass.


Wretched Genius said...

I live in the grindhouse. I am the target audience of this film. I do not like this movie.

And I disagree completely about Lohan. She's just as bad, if not slightly worse, than nearly everyone else. The 2 exceptions being Cheech Marin, who steals the couple of small scenes he's in, and Michelle Rodriguez, who always plays herself but makes perfect sense in the role of a tough rebellion leader (and, in my opinion, out-sexies Alba).

Nick Prigge said...

Yes! Thank you, Brad. I was hoping it was as bad as I thought it was. This confirms it.

I guess I didn't really mention Michelle Rodriguez. Mainly because, as you say, she plays Michelle Rodriguez. But she's just such a good Michelle Rodriguez.

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