For all intents and purposes, Machete is a film that should not exist. Based off of a fake trailer attached to the Robert Rodriguez / Quentin Tarantino collaboration Grrindhouse, Machete is something that has been talked about a lot but that few thought would ever actually materialize. Robert Rodriguez though kept the idea in his head and has unleashed the story of Machete upon film going audiences.
Machete is an interesting experiment. Rodriguez takes the concept he developed for a two minute trailer and has fleshed it out into a full 100 minute film and that in itself should be admired. Just because he has accomplished this feat though does not necessarily imply that he has succeeded in delivering a quality film because Machete as a film is a mixed bag.
The film is the story of Machete (Danny Trejo) an ex-Mexican police officer who watches his wife’s murder and is left for dead all at the hand of the evil drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal). Three years later Machete is in Texas during a time when a strong crackdown on illegal immigration and this political hot point is the main theme driving the film. Machete is tasked with assassinating Senator McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro), of course the assassination attempt is just making use of Machete as a patsy to drum up support for an anti-immigration fence.
There are added layers to the overall plot but if you have ever watched a 70s exploitation film you know where this is all heading because it is about a subtle as Danny Trejo’s face. Personally the lack of subtlety is a major drawback for me. Whereas Rodriguez’s Grindehouse installment, Planet Terror, was a proper tribute/parody of the exploitation genre, Machete is just a straight exploitation film.
Yes, it is fun and a lot of that comes from Rodriguez’s natural ability too make fun movies however it is fun in the ironic way that actual exploitation films are fun. To be short about this, Machete takes itself too seriously. Rodriguez obviously wants to deliver a political message with his film. Sadly the way he delivers it makes his film come off in the wrong way. Regardless of where one stands on the immigration issue that Rodriguez attempts to tackle with Machete, it is undeniable that the issue is much deeper than the black and white, good and evil examination that the film offers up.
Much like Grindhouse itself, Machete is a polarizing film. If you are a fan of over-the-top action films, 70s exploitation films and can ignore poorly delivered political messaging, then Machete is a film that will float your boat. Everyone else should probably steer clear.
3 out of 5.