Some films can have a decades long struggle to be created, with scripts being written, rewritten, rewritten again or thrown away as distributors come and go and everyone involved scrambles for funding to get the production off the ground. Some seem stuck in developmental hell. Others come to life before our very eyes, as 'Machete' did. Born as a mock trailer in the 'Grindhouse' double feature, the Danny Trejo-starring short was one of the defining moments of the experience, an over the top ride full of ridiculous action and humor directed by Robert Rodriguez. Just a few years later, said mock trailer became a self-fulfilling prophecy, to the point that its every moment was taken into account when crafting the feature length film. While the character may have been dreamed up long before, there was no real call for a film about the blade wielding one man Mexican army until he got the girls and killed the bad guys.
Now if only we can get Nicolas Cage's Fu Manchu from the 'Werewolf Women of the SS' some more screen time, even if that means using Rob Zombie again...
If you have been living under a rock for the last three or four years, and don't know the basic premise of 'Machete,' then I must say, I pity you. The ex-Federale codenamed 'Machete' (Trejo) was hired to assassinate a Texas Senator (Robert De Niro) running for reelection while focusing on the "infestation" of illegals in the area. Booth (Jeff Fahey), the man who hired Machete, doesn't tell him that he's being set up, and tries to have Machete killed in the intentionally botched assassination aimed to drive support to the hardline Senator. But Booth doesn't know he hired a legend instead of your ordinary day laborer, though he will soon find out he just fucked with the wrong Mexican.
Now, I know what you're thinking: how can any film that has the least amount of clothing on both Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Alba on film as of current (even if some of it is due to CG trickery), alongside one of the only times Trejo has had a truly starring role, let alone one so gloriously loaded with excessive violence, not be deserving of higher marks?
'Machete' has its flaws, like any full length feature film adapted from a short film (or trailer, though said cases are beyond rare), due to the fact that the material designed to bridge the gap sometimes pulls away too much from the point of the film. As such, we get backstories for all characters, and plenty of connections between them, fleshing out roles that were once there solely to provide token nudity. Entire characters are created, and they take on pivotal roles in the fairly thick plot.
The moments from the original trailer are all integrated into the film, but at times they stand out like a sore thumb, and are quickly abandoned, just in there for a quick pop. It's a shame, too, considering how much potential some of the moments had, particularly the machine gun mounted on the motorcycle, or the spot with Cheech Marin as a pastor with a penchant for murder. Marin's expanded role fits in with the rest of the film, though damn near every scene with him seems like a distraction, a sideplot that was really unnecessary, save for the fact that it was a part of the original trailer.
Trejo finally gets his dues, as the longtime character actor's coming out party features his particular sets of talents nicely. Sadly, that's where the line is drawn in the acting department. Michelle Rodriguez, I don't know how she keeps getting roles, as her delivery and believability are both nearly non-existent. Jessica Alba seems like half a character (and the deleted scenes explain why), and she's never been more than a T&A actress, as is obvious here. De Niro is fun as a fairly racist two-timing scumbag politician, but even he doesn't seem all that interested in the proceedings. Steven Seagal, if you're a fan, may be a revelation, but his turn as a drug cartel leader hardly seemed all that special to me.
The timing on the film makes it somewhat relevant, tying in racial tensions in Texas, alongside politicians manipulating the issues riling up feathers, and the fight for rights and a place for aliens (of the illegal variety), providing a background anyone living in the Southern states can understand. The main character is still somewhat fresh in our minds. Robert Rodriguez gives audiences what they want to see, even if it means the film can pander at times. An entertaining time awaits, with a film that, despite its ridiculousness, can make us think. However, thinking during a film like this seems like such a waste.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Fox's Blu-ray release of 'Machete' arrives on a Region A marked BD50 disc, in a cut-out eco-case, held under a great looking slipcover. The pre-menu content is skippable through the top menu button, bringing up the full motion menu screen.
On an odd note, normally Robert Rodriguez films are loaded to the brim with extras, however this release seems to be a bit short in that category. It's entirely possible that a double dip will happen within a year, due to such.
'Machete' is all over the place when it comes to its appearance, featuring heavy stylization to match the 'Grindhouse' trailer and feel from its origins. The 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode presents the film in an accurate manner, but there are things that just cannot be overlooked, no matter how truthful to the source they may be.
The blips, scratches, lines, and dirt that were digitally added to make the 'Grindhouse' features and trailers seem aged are heavy in the opening sequence, and pop up on a few occasions in the film, but they never deter detail other than to give it that added layer of grunge that the film revels in. There are tons of pores, scars, bumps, and lines on display in the cast, as fine details pop vividly, especially from Trejo's tattered mug. Colors are vibrant, and quite strong, and stray hairs run rampant, only adding to the great three dimensional feel of the film. Crush is not an issue, not even in the flowing Machete mane.
Sadly, the super hot feel of the film makes everything seem just too damn over-saturated, even if it's an aesthetic choice, making skin tones often run a bright orange. Some green screen effects/performances stand out against their backgrounds improperly, while grain levels are inconsistent, and noise and blocking seem inherent in the source. Fans of the 'Grindhouse' experience will be satisfied with the appearance of the film, which, while seemingly accurate, will never be a fine demonstration disc.
'Machete' rocks the house with its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. While the video sometimes feels overly stylized, to the point that it can be a detriment, there is no such strike against the audio, which sounds pretty damn pure.
Bass levels are heavy, in both the action and the soundtrack, and while they may seem a bit exaggerated at times, the thumps are fitting in a loud, loud film like this. Bullets properly localize and move, and have a nice welcome, appropriate pop. Room dynamics are solid, save for some sequences that seem annoyingly cheap in design, like the McLoughlan speech (the one where he gets shot), which features crowd noises from the front channels only, despite being a full on rally. Dialogue is comprehendible, and all but a couple lines of Spanish are subtitled, so there's little to be missed here.
It's not a perfect track, and it can sometimes be loud for the sake of being loud, and not all that well balanced throughout the entire room, but it's still, an enjoyable, rowdy track that fits the film beautifully.
'Machete' is a fun film, even if it panders and is drawn out about twenty (or thirty) minutes too long. It's an absolutely great experience for Trejo fans, who are used to seeing their main man in minor roles, getting offed often. The rest of the cast is a slight disappointment, but Trejo, man does he rock in this film. With faithful, though sometimes ugly video, and strong audio, this Blu-ray is hardly a disappointment. It comes with an easy recommendation, though I do fear an inevitable double dip in the near future.