I had the good fortune to attend the premiere of Robert Rodriguez’s new grindhouse flick, Machete, starring ex-con and Rodriguez staple Mr. Danny Trejo at the Orpheum Theater in downtown LA. Let me tell you, it was amazing. Outside the theater was a parking lot housing dozens of low riders and choppers (complete with custom paint jobs and hydraulics) which ferried the cast to the red carpet. Almost every major cast member attended and took the stage before the film screened. Robert Rodriguez gave us a brief introduction before retiring to a balcony-level opera booth to watch the film with friend and fellow filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. The movie itself is filthy and funny and chock full action, nudity, and gore. And, with an eclectic cast of amazing actors playing their over-the-top lines with absolute seriousness, this modernized exploitation film will have you laughing and shouting for more. I definitely recommend seeing this one on the big screen!
The cast was absolutely insane! Danny Trejo as Machete Cortez (his birth name) endows his character with a generous amount of vulnerability and sincerity from the very beginning. We giddily cheer him along, as the ex-federale and current-patsy spends the movie gruesomely murdering people and getting laid all in the name of revenge. Jessica Alba does a fine job as the ICE agent dealing with the eternal philosophical question: are laws to be upheld even when they conflict with what’s morally right? Plus, she’s SO HOT, and Robert Rodriguez convinces her to do “full side” nudity, so there’s that. Way to go, Robert! Michelle Rodriguez plays Luz, a kind soul who helps illegal immigrants to get settled in America and kicks a$$ with Machete on numerous occasions. Don Johnson, Robert Deniro, Jeff Fahey, and Steven Seagal all play villains of one kind or another. They all do a spectacular job with their fairly limited screen time, but I must say that Fahey and Johnson stand out in their roles, seeming to embrace their extreme characters and the world that Rodriguez created. Cheech Marin, another Rodriguez “go-to,” plays Padr (pronounced Padre), the brother of Machete, and a priest who, to our delight, ends up being much less pious than a typical man of the cloth. He drinks, guns down killers, and when his offer of a “Cuban” is declined, Padr pulls out another cigar box full of massive cone joints and proceeds to get very high. Tom Savini has a small, somewhat weird but incredibly hilarious bit-part as a famous hit man. And, Lindsay Lohan… ah, Lindsay Lohan. When she first appeared on screen, the audience burst out laughing. She really does a great job with her role, although, playing a rich, rebellious, and self-destructive young woman doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. Her character does go through a major revelation and comes out on the other side with the audience completely behind her. Let’s just say that you haven’t seen a nun kick this much a$$ since The Penguin from The Blues Brothers! Now, I only hope that she can stay alive and out of jail long enough to film the sequel.
I don’t want to talk much about plot, because, quite frankly, that’s not what’s important about this movie. All you need to know is that some bad guys (some really evil guys, actually) have messed with the wrong dude, and now he’s coming to kill them. What is exceptional about this film is the tongue-in-cheek tone, similar to Planet Terror. There is plenty of gore, but it is almost always designed to elicit laughs or cheers from the audience. The dialogue is cheesy but fun, something I’d be worried about if it weren’t for the extraordinary talent of the actors and the director. The special effects are great, adeptly depicting unrealistic and extreme events fairly seamlessly, so that they look and feel real within the context of the film. They are what you’d expect from a very talented filmmaker on a limited budget, and I think this adds even more flavor to the film. There are some really great films in the world that have strong and important messages, and Machete is not one of them. Rodriguez has crafted an action comedy (if I had to fit the film into a contemporary genre), although it certainly doesn’t follow the typical formula. And, unlike the meandering pace of Death Proof (which I loved), Machete is tight and non-stop fun! I hate when people disrupt a movie by talking and making noise, but I love when I see a movie and it elicits strong reactions, be it laughter, groans, applause, or even something verbal. It’s all about that shared experience that makes seeing a movie in the theater a unique experience that will never be replaced by Torrent, Netflix, or anything else. Machete is exactly that type of movie. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but for those who enjoy a wild ride and don’t mind some “T & A” and a lot of blood, well then, check out Machete!