Robert Rodriguez's Machete is a film that defies logic. Originally conceived as a fake film trailer, Machete has grown into a full-fledged action film that honors the B-movies of the 1970s. However, unlike those films of yesteryear, Machete relies on some of the biggest names in the industry to star in supporting roles: Robert De Niro is a corrupt politician, Lindsay Lohan is a pornographic website actress, and Steven Segal is a sword-wielding Mexican drug lord.
With supporting characters like that, you would expect a big-name star to take the title role. Brad Pitt maybe? How about Bruce Willis? Or Johnny Depp? Nope"¦ try Danny Trejo, a man with hundreds of film and TV appearances to his credit, but almost all of them in supporting roles. So then, Rodriguez starts things off by defying convention"¦ a sign of things to come.
As for the acting itself, the film relies on a badass protagonist to generally keep his mouth shut and just act mean. What results is an action-hero completely devoid of any real personality, and yet he somehow manages to be extremely appealing to women. If that's not the perfect parody of exploitation films, then I don't know what is. Really, it's up to the supporting cast to carry the story. Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez are in the main female roles; together they manage to balance out the lifeless energy that Trejo projects. Neither is particularly brilliant here, but their performances are serviceable and sexy. The real saving grace of Machete is the combined performances of Robert De Niro, Steven Segal, Don Johnson and Jeff Fahey. As the chief antagonists, each brings a new layer of depth and corruption to this bloodthirsty revenge tale.
The story in Machete is a topical political exploration of illegal immigration policy along the Border States. While that may sound mature enough on paper, Machete manages to butcher the whole topic down to racism and commercialism. Quite frankly, it's better this way; any serious policy discussion would completely undermine the tone of the film. Regardless, there's a message to be had here, and I expect Fox News will pick up on it very soon.
Even though the story and acting are so-so, Machete manages to make up for its shortcomings with over-the-top action and violence. This is where the film really delivers; after all, how many times have you seen a man repel down a building with a bad guy's intestines? This one is certainly full of new experiences (including a naked Lindsay Lohan), and the sheer absurdity of it all makes this the sort of film that you at least have to experience one time.
What's really remarkable is how closely the final film follows the original 2007 mock promo. In fact, almost every scene from the Grindhouse trailer has been incorporated into the final product. Machete is a notable homage to exploitation filmmaking, but inattention to detail, mediocre acting, and sloppy effects are only so tolerable to modern audiences. The funny moments are enough to keep things interesting, but the rest is all a tad dull.