Rewind Review: Machete

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Machete (2010)

Machete is the kind of movie that will leave you smiling ear to ear from beginning to end. The film is absolutely non-stop entertainment, laughs and action and one of the more enjoyable movie experiences you’re likely to have this year. Robert Rodriguez is a director who has two very disparate personas there is his action side and his kid’s film side. It’s kind of hard to compare the two but in terms of straight-up action this is likely his best offering since the cinematic miracle that put him on the map, El Mariachi.

One thing you need to know is that this movie is a grindhouse film from start to finish. There are intentional and digitally rendered scratches on the film in the opening portion, there are outlandish situations, gratuitous nudity and some over-the-top performances all done with a tongue-in-cheek spin to make it all spot on.
This is a film that owes its genesis to Rodriguez’s 2007 collaboration with Quentin Tarantino on the Grindhouse double-feature. In which we first saw a glimpse of Machete in a spoof trailer. Leave it to Robert Rodriguez to have the guts to like his idea enough to bring it to the big screen as a feature and it has been worth the wait.

What helps drive this film along is perhaps the best scoring in a film by Robert Rodriguez since Spy Kids. Robert does not take the task alone this time but has a band assembled referred to as Chingon and the sum is definitely greater than the whole of its parts. It is the toe-tapping overdrive that is needed for such a story.

Machete (2010, Troublemaker Studios)

Not only does this film remain in the grindhouse style from start to finish but it is so through to its bones meaning there will be no attempt at subtlety in conveying its message about immigration policies in this country. It occasionally comes right out and hits you over the head with them, typically in a very funny way but it all fits and makes sense. It is also commendable that as silly and fun as it is most of the time it still manages to be about something and is not just pure escapism.

Robert Rodriguez’s films are always notable for their casting. He typically gets commitments from bigger names by having them take smaller parts they like and working them only a few days but at the same time, like many established directors, he has his stable of favorites. Here he might just have done his best balancing act of his career. Of course, you have Danny Trejo as the titular character who is convincing every step of the way through and though he is age-wise in the ballpark of many of the stars of The Expendables it never crosses your mind (and odds are he can take a few). There’s Cheech Marin, who here he plays a priest in a much more convincing and Cheech-like way than he did in The Perfect Game because the circumstances are vastly different and you have Daryl Sabara, formerly the younger half of the Spy Kids tandem, as a member of “The Network” in a hysterical turn.

On the flip-side you have Robert De Niro as two-faced Texas State Senator, Don Johnson as a man hunting border-jumpers, Jeff Fahey as a duplicitous campaign manager and Jessica Alba, fittingly placed as an agent who has turned her back on her heritage and arrests illegal immigrants. Not to mention Lindsay Lohan in a part where few will reasonably think she’s acting and, of course, Steven Seagal who…well you just have to see it as it’s indescribably funny. It’s the perfect balance.

Machete (2010, Troublemaker Studios)

This film is downright hysterical from start to finish and is without question one of the best films of the year and will be hard to top as the most enjoyable time I had watching a movie. The end teases sequels and hopefully there are, and if there are Rodriguez certainly traded up dumping Sin City for this. This is an absolute triumph for Robert Rodriguez.

10/10

Review- John Carter

Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins in John Carter (Disney)

I was likely one of very few people who was actually very eager to see this film, however, this is not the place to discuss the marketing missteps of this film that will likely land it the dubious distinction of being one of the biggest flops of all time. However, it does bear mentioning that flops are usually measured in financial terms alone but this film I found to be very good and it deserved a better marketing campaign and more of an audience than it did end up getting in its opening weeks.

The film does take its time to build and thus pushes its running time over the two hour mark but it’s all time well spent. The beginning shows where Carter is and how he is a man who given the chance would turn his back not just on the norms of the world at present but the world in general. There are some beautiful cuts to illustrate his defiance and it is not the only element of his character and the plot that is being established and layered at the start.

The film does have a lot of extra-terrestrial political intrigue and to an extent transcendental politics that are involved and the balancing act that these elements have to engage in with the visceral, relatable parameters of the story are not handled perfectly but with any aspect that is introduced in this film that makes the balance more precarious is also making the story a bit more intriguing and involved, which is a good thing because without them I admit it would’ve been a bit milquetoast but there’s enough going on that it stays interesting and somewhat unique. Is there an element of pulp fiction to this tale? Absolutely but pulp fiction can be some of the most enjoyable stories you’re likely to find.

Aside from the political intrigue there’s also a certain duality introduced that separates this film. To say more would be to divulge too much but it is very effective and adds an additional element to the story that really lends it some much needed gravitas at the moment where it truly needs it.

Why it’s a necessity is because the story at that point had reached a point where John and Dejah’s conflict had passed its boiling point and, in fact, was running out of steam so that added to it. Regardless of the minimal script issues Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins do very well. They are equally impressive and in my frame of reference had different tasks whereas Lynn Collins I was not very familiar with at all I knew Kitcsch from Friday Night Lights and here had to watch him play an older, jaded character and it was convincing. Daryl Sabara’s participation in this film while small in screen-time is significant in his interpretation as a young man who’ll readily listen to his uncle’s tales.

The trifecta in separating this story from other space operas is it conclusion. It was a built to and alluded to finale but it did catch me slightly off guard but it was also clear enough such that it clicked right away. It made sense and is a great little twist that made the whole experience that much more enjoyable.

The effects work was very good, it rarely was in your face and included very deft creation of vistas and creatures. I cannot comment on the 3D work since I did not watch it as such simply because of showtime options.

I personally left the film wanting the sequel that the box office receipts seem to indicate will never come which is a shame but it does not alter my opinion of this film. It’s a very good one that deserves a shot.

8/10