The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Machete (2010)

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I know everyone's been waiting for me to review this one for a while now, so I won't waste any time with a story about why it took so long or about how much that whole "Netflix has to wait a month for a movie" thing sucks. We'll just cut right to the chase. Also, three other blogs I follow made this one happen: Francisco at The Film Connoisseur (no relation to us, but a great site in it's own right), Mr. Kenner at Movies in the Attic, and our man from Down Under, Sutekh over at Explosive Action. All good reads in my opinion.

Machete has veteran character actor and DTVC favorite Danny Trejo as a Federale that has been set up by baddie drug lord Torrez, played by the film's one DTVC Hall of Famer Steven Seagal. He survives and escapes to a small Texas border town, hiding out as a day laborer. Jeff Fahey suspects his dissimulation, and hires him to assassinate Robert De Niro, a Texas politician whose raison d'etre is an abhorrent xenophobia bent on expelling Mexican immigrants from the state, to the point that he's joined Don Johnson and his good ol' boy gang of evil hunters who kill people trying to sneak over the border. That's when all hell breaks loose, because it's a set-up to use Trejo as a patsy to get De Niro re-elected after the assassination attempt, and Trejo realizes that the plot may go deeper, all the way to his old nemesis Torrez. The only people he can rely on are Michelle Rodriguez, a woman who runs The Network, which helps immigrants gain a foothold in the country; Jessica Alba, an immigration enforcement officer; and his brother, Cheech Marin, who is now a priest. Can Trejo defeat these bastards?

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Oh, yes he can. This movie is nothing short of pure awesome. Great nonstop action, a perfect mix of blood, humor, and explosions. I know Rodriguez was going for a 70s Grindhouse feel, but he did a great job modernizing it without losing too much of what makes that kind of film great. He also incorporated the political elements he wanted expertly, something a Bill Maher would have been proud of. No, this movie isn't meant for Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh, but that's what makes it so kickass: we get to laugh at them with everyone else. This hits all the spots you wanted it to when you saw the commercial, plus some you weren't expecting. There's so much awesome shit crammed into this film, I actually forgot to grab an image of one of my favorite actors, Tom Savini. It really doesn't get much better than this.

Usually we start with the Hall of Famers, but I think we'll wait on that to discuss one Mr. Danny Trejo. How do you not love that? As Kenner put it in his post, he channeled Charles Bronson, and that's not hyperbole. We're so used to seeing him as a character actor, taking on supporting roles, but to see him here in the lead felt so natural-- and that includes him swinging by a man's intestines Bruce Willis Die Hard-style out of a hospital window. He's paid his dues giving Jean-Claude Van Damme foot massages, so it's good to see him get a chance to kick ass like this.

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Now to Steven Seagal. While the rest of his action star brethren were appearing in The Expendables, Seagal was in his own ensemble piece, and I think it worked out for the best. I don't know what kind of role he would've had in Stallone's film, but here he got to not only play a baddie, but got to have fun with it too. You may remember that he and Trejo linked up previously in Urban Justice, with Seagal as the main hero, and Trejo as a rival gangster to Eddie Griffin. That's usually the natural order of things, but Machete turns all of that on its ear, and it wouldn't have been possible if Seagal wasn't on board. Really great work, and better than a lot of his poorly-written omnipotent protagonists in some of his DTV films.

We know that one of my main rules about good action films is to avoid political subjects, but this film broke that rule and, in so doing, actually enhanced the end product. The thing is, few DTV productions have the skill or know how to pull this off, so I'd say Machete is more the exception than the rule. The key is that at no point are they preaching. This is very Bill Maher or Jon Stewart style-- only much bloodier and explosive, of course-- where they paint their opponent's viewpoint in such a way that you can't help but laugh at them and see them for how asinine they are. If you're a Tea Bagger and you watch Machete and don't think you're a complete douchebag and ignoramus afterwards, you're actually a bigger douchebag and ignoramus than you thought.

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Unlike The Expendables, which had very little in the way of female supporting characters-- very unfortunate that Charisma Carpenter didn't get a bigger part, but I digress-- Machete had two in major heroic roles: Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez. We all know that Jessica Alba is one of the hottest movies stars alive, and there's nothing in here that will make anyone change their mind about that; but Michelle Rodriguez is no slouch either. So often she's depicted as just the tough chick, while the Jessica Albas of the picture are celebrated for being the hotties, but Robert Rodriguez does a great job of splitting the difference, and celebrating Michelle Rodriguez for being both tough and physically attractive. Then, when she has her eye shot out by Don Johnson, she can rock that eye patch, and Robert Rodriguez can make the whole thing sexy-- not just tough.

With all of this positive stuff about the film being said, I did have one issue with it, and that was when Jeff Fahey killed off Cheech Marin after he helped Danny Trejo. This was a bad action movie rule that they broke and couldn't turn into a positive. No matter what, whenever someone is asked by the hero for his or her help, and is killed for doing that, it always makes the hero look less heroic. That was especially true here, where Marin was being crucified while Trejo was lying in bed with Jessica Alba. I've just never understood the concept of that. "Hi, I'm the hero, I need you to help me. I know I'm getting you involved in something you want no part of, but it's okay, believe me. It's better for the film if you die instead of me."

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You may remember a long time a go I put up a poll seeing what people thought of me possibly reviewing a Lindsay Lohan film for the DTVC. Well, now we can actually do it. Yep, that's her in the nun costume aiming a pistol at Robert De Niro. There's something symbolic in that, isn't there? This was the role that did for her what that sack of asscrack I Know Who Killed Me was supposed to and failed miserably at. This is the "fuck The Parent Trap, fuck Herbie Fully Loaded" movie she's always wanted, and she fucking killed it. All I can say is, good for her, man, good for her.

This is the movie you wanted, and it's finally available on Netflix. If I had to choose... I'd have to say I couldn't choose between this and The Expendables. They're both good for what they were trying to do, which was actually two very different things. The Expendables was taking the late 80s/early 90s action blockbuster and making it modern, while Machete was taking the 70s Grindhouse feature and making it modern, and both were very successful. 2010 was a great year for action in the theaters.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0985694/

14 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more. Movie of 2010 for me. The only thing I didn't like was Jessica Alba's ability to act, as in complete lack of. Michelle was far better than Alba. I loved how seemless the footage from the old Grindhouse trailer was inserted into the movie, especially the swimming with Lohan and her mother scene. And that awesome motorbike with chaingun through the air scene. Brilliance.

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  2. I would say that my favorite character was Don Johnson. Indeed whis was a great performance because he somehow made his character a threat as well as humorous and indeed pulled off an evil Walker Texas Ranger. If that makes sense. Indeed the one flaw was that the villains were so good (Seagal, Johnson, De Niro and Fahey) that they would've been better used as main focuses for Machete in the future.

    For me this and The Expendables, this, Ninja Assassin,Rambo, Punisher:War Zone,JCVD, Planet Terror and maybe Death Proof (Such would be weakest) Would fit perfectly together in a Grindhouse movie pack that they used to offer.

    I offer up JCVD as well as i've seen the title with three crappy looking movies presented with it and because it has a lot to do with grindhouse cinema even if it is arthouse, I think it could be that I pair it together as such because I feel the style is so different and back in the grindhouse days anything different got put in the grindhouse theaters. But for me for some reason said movies while different in many ways have a glorious B.movie feel.

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  3. I agree with pretty much everything you said, though I will add that I actually enjoyed "I Know Who Killed Me" i can totally understand why most people hate it, but i thought it was a pretty interesting film.

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  4. I enjoyed it but I do feel it was somewhat over-hyped. It's a great exploitation action movie, though. Great to see Steven Seagal in a theatrically released film again.

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  5. Excellent review! Loved Seagal in it. His mexican accent was perfect.

    It's always nice to see Fahey,
    Cheech, Johnson and Trejo (finally in a lead role) Deniro, Alba, Rodriguez and Lohan were decent too.

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  6. I can definitely see where everyone is coming from on this one. For me, as far as the commercials and advertising went, this is one of the few that gave us exactly what they were selling, which is always good. I thought I'd come into this being able to say one way or the other if I liked this better than The Expendables, but it didn't happen. I know that's a pretty weak take, that I liked both equally, but I did.

    Speaking of which, a very interesting take on your part, Kenner, to mix in JCVD, but I like it. Ninja Assassin had a big middle where not much happened that the others you mentioned didn't, otherwise, I'd put it up there with them. In feel, I agree, but not exactly in execution. Definitely the new Rambo, and Punisher War Zone though. I enjoyed all of those. JCVD though, that's interesting, but I totally see it. It's a great companion to these.

    And who's to say he can't bring any of these baddies back from the dead for a future film?

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  7. Yeah, someone who agrees! Since this movie deals with political issues, it's devided a lot of viewers. Some love it and some hate it, depends on your political views.

    Still no matter who you voted for, this movie is fun times all the way.

    And was it just me or could Michelle Rodriguez's 'She' have gotten her own film? She looked so awesome! Sexy and tough at the same time. Scratch that, I mean ultra sexy and tough!

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  8. For me, I usually have a problem with a film taking a political stance, but that's more because it often comes off as either preachy or inept, and this film was neither, so I was good with it. And Michelle Rodriguez leading her own picture as She would be pretty sweet. Very sexy, and I liked that Robert Rodriguez allowed her to be as sexy as she was tough.

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  9. Yeah Ninja Assassin would be there because of the idea, next to Death Proof it would be the weakest movie of such. I would include such because it is so Grindhouse, I mean the first 15 minutes is enough to guarantee it. Plus you always have to have a ninja movie somewhere in your grindhouse collection. Indeed if they only had a post apocalypse movie then it would be perfect. And no, The Book Of Eli stinks.

    Another one I should've added was Pirhanna 3D. I guess you could make a case for Crank 1-2 but for me it just doesn't have the same feel as the others. Same thing with Running Scared.They have the elements of a Grindhouse feel but not quite.

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  10. See, I saw The Expendables as less Grindhouse, and more big budget 80s/90s actioner. I like the idea of packaging it with Machete though, because both films were a modern version of an older genre of movie, both looked at as cheap and crass, but both also having a big place in all of our hearts. I see them as different from Black Dynamite too, because these films weren't meant to be funny the way that one was-- but all three of them were a lot of fun.

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  11. See I do with The Expendables because 80s Action in itself was 80s Action. Cannon films in particular grindhouse films. The Grindhouse style didn't die in the 70s.

    As for Lone Tiger,I haven't seen it but the clips on you tube looked funny.

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  12. The Expendables wasn't trying to remake Cannon movies, it was trying to remake bigger budget blockbusters. Maybe Cannon was on some levels a forerunner to that, but Stallone was definitely thinking on a bigger level. We're talking Tango and Cash, Demolition Man, and a lot of the Schwarzenegger films that he wasn't a fan of because he and Arnie didn't exactly get along.

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  13. I meant that 80s Action was in itself grindhouse exploitation films. The Punisher, Death Wish 3, Commando, Rambo II amd Bloodsport are all fine examples of Grindhouse. At least in my opinion. The big budget 80s movie was like Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, Dirty Harry sequels, Lethal Weapon series,Tango & Cash and Die Hard (Though that goes for both) good some aren't but this was your 80s blockbuster, the bodycount movie was different. Indeed it wasn't until Terminator 2 that such was really merged. I mean look at the differences between say Speed,Sudden Death, Timecop,True Lies, Eraser, Demolition Man and All of Seagal's films pre-1994.

    Compare such to say Dolph Lundgren's I Come In Peace, The Punisher, Showdown In Little Tokyo. Or say Death Wish 2-5 (Or any Bronson flicks from the 80s), Commando, Rambo, Running Man,Stone Cold,Cobra,Invasion USA, Delta Force, Missing In Action 1-3, Kickboxer, Bloodsport and American Ninja.

    Road House though counts as both. So does Total Recall. Cases could be made for Last Boyscout, Robocop and the Rocky 3-5

    The Expendables for me recalls the flicks I mentioned above as opposed to Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun.

    I don't know, I hope I explained my reasoning.

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  14. I understand your reasoning, I'm just saying that Stallone wasn't putting in the effort he did to remake Cannon flicks, he was remaking the films from his heyday-- the kinds of movies that brought him home 7 figure paychecks. His 2008 Rambo might be more in the line you're thinking of, but The Expendables was True Lies kind of stuff-- only he'd never use that description because, again, it's an Arnie flick. Definitely not Grindhouse low-budget pump out as many as you can kind of stuff-- hence the name, Grindhouse.

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