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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

‘Machete’ is stylishly bloody, not much else


Rating: 2 out of 4

Consensus: “Machete” definitely delivers some genre thrills, but drags on far too long

“Machete” is the full-length film by Robert Rodriguez that was spawned from his fake trailer for the Quentin Tarantino/Rodriguez double feature “Grindhouse.” Rodriguez’s films always seem to alternate between those acceptable for children (“Spy Kids,” “The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl”) and extremely violent adult fare (“Sin City,” “Planet Terror”).

“Machete” definitely falls into the latter category as a bawdy exploitation film in the vein of “Superfly” or “Ms. 45” with some truly awesome bloody carnage. After awhile though, the script starts to give out and the proceedings start to wane severely.

During a job, Mexican federal agent “Machete” (Danny Trejo) loses his family in a gruesome manner at the hands of drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal). Out of a job and working as a day laborer, Machete is confronted by the shady Benz (Jeff Fahey) and is asked to assassinate sleazy Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), presumably because of his controversial views on immigration and border patrol. Along the way, he comes into contact with a taco-vending revolutionary (Michelle Rodriguez), his gun-toting, pot-smoking priest brother (Cheech Marin), and an insane, spoiled rich girl (Lindsay Lohan).

The casting of “Machete” works to a degree, although there are some definite misfires.

It is hard to imagine Machete being played by anyone else other than Danny Trejo. His face is so perfect for it, and he delivers his lines with the kind of solemn grit you would expect from a beat down vigilante/voice of the people. The casting of Steven Seagal as Torrez is very funny and strangely appropriate. Seeing these two out-of-shape stars with limited range hobble their way through the destruction actually doesn’t detract from the movie, but rather adds to the whole low-budget exploitation film atmosphere.

Robert De Niro gives one of his more interesting performances of the last couple years, which have been growing more and more banal lately. Jeff Fahey almost steals the show as the slimy Benz, alternating his demeanor from menacing to embarrassingly comical. Don Johnson of Miami Vice fame is also given an abhorrent scumbag role to fully sink his teeth into, and Jessica Alba decently plays a put-upon border cop.

A much-hyped Lindsay Lohan does indeed appear in the film as a parody of her public image and the effect is more numbing than anything. Lohan, who seems to have started taking acting classes from Paris Hilton, stumbles her way through her part (although I guess that is kind of the point) and delivers all of her lines like she just got done smoking a carton of Marlboro Reds. Her scenes are more like soft-core porn, but they add to the whole lurid aspect of exploitation films Rodriguez was going  for.

Building on an amazing grainy opening scene, Rodriguez’s and his cousin Alvaro Rodriguez’s script begins to lose steam about an hour into the proceedings. While the action scenes are well-staged and entertainingly violent, the dialogue-driven scenes that take up most of the film are plodding and weigh down the film substantially.

Though delivered with gusto by most of the cast, the script isn’t quite as memorable or ridiculous as it should be, especially within the demands of the exploitation genre. It makes you wish Rodriguez had added the much-needed touch of aforementioned collaborator Tarantino, who is a much superior screenwriter.

Like “Shaft” or “Ms. 45,” the script uses the excessive violence to comically touch upon a pressing social issue – illegal immigration and the mistreatment of Mexican immigrants. And while Rodriguez covers the topic well, social justice is not really what the film’s main concern is.

 All in all, “Machete” is exactly what it appeared to be in the trailer: a tasteless and excessive bloodbath that is very entertaining in spurts. Although Rodriguez could definitely have trimmed some of the fat, “Machete” remains a hollow but fun time at the movies.

Release Date: Sept. 3

MPAA Rating: R

Run Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

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