By Fred Topel | Image property of 20th Century Fox
I feel like I should have liked Machete more than I did. It’s got all the crazy action I expected. Maybe it was that I saw a 10AM screening. Nobody’s fault, that was the only one I could attend, but I’m not a morning person. Ultimately it seems like it’s not as good as the trailer.
The film embraces all the action clichés that a grindhouse movie could take seriously, but the tone is affectionate homage. Machete remains cool and quiet while his partner’s freaking out. He crushes his radio, as if we needed to know that he doesn’t follow orders. It kind of gets every action cliché out of the way early.
In a way it feels like Grindhouse is back. They’ve kept the exploitation elements, the random nudity, sloppy cuts and a little bit of the fake scratches. A major actor gets an “introducing” credit just for fun. The blood is CGI though, there’s no de-modernizing that.
It does all you can possibly think of with a machete. They use non sequitur references to set up a crazy stunt. That thing you thought was irrelevant pays off, but it’s sincere, not a spoof. Machete and his partners use other sharp implements to kill too, and there are no one-liners, only a visual cap to the scene.
They actually debate immigration seriously enough. It’s kind of funny that an action movie has that as a premise, but beyond the joke they really express every point of view.
Maybe the movie just got too plotty for me. There are four bad guys. That plus the immigration thing really complicates the story from the simplicity of the trailer. It was just supposed to be they got the wrong guy and he came back for revenge. Now it’s kind of Hollywood justifying the craziness too much.
Also, the trailer scenes are really awkward in context, like they tried too hard. It’s funny that the wife and daughter scene happened to obscure the daughter’s face so they could cast an A-list name and drop in the double’s nude scene. Real money shots like the machine gun motorcycle are just a one gag cutaway, when there should have been an entire sequence built around them.
Even with all the craziness, it’s still not as fun as The Expendables, and The Expendables had problems. Each cool character in Machete actually gets less of a moment than the jam-packed Expendables cast got. Maybe Machete is a little too conscious or maybe I really was too tired at 10 AM. I’ll give ‘em that.