Hollywood’s gotten a little ironic as of late. With throwbacks to the cheese of yesteryear – The Expendibles, Piranha 3D and Predators, just in the past two months – the studios have been willing to play with low-brow entertainment while winking at the audience. But like Snakes on a Plane proved, making a bad movie good isn’t as easy as it seems, and those aforementioned aforementioned movies worked to varying degrees (godsend Piranha 3D aside).
So how does Machete, a movie with the unpublicized catchphrase “You just fucked with the wrong Mexican,” fulfill fanboy dreams of silly cinema? Pretty well, it turns out.
It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that co-director Robert Rodriguez knows his way around R-rated cartoon violence better than Paul Haggis does pretentious racism dramas, but Machete might be his best yet in this regard. Armed with a great cast full of actors not afraid to ham it up, Machete‘s japery doesn’t ware out until the last minutes of the film.
The movie works primarily as an exploitation feature, not afraid to splay some guts and blood for the audience’s entertainment. The opening scene establishes that there’s going to be some very indulgent violence, with a split-second shot that delivers the star, Machete (Danny Trejo), decaptitating three bad guys in one move.
This isn’t the film’s only mode. Surprisingly, it takes on political issues, namely Immigration reform. Machete is just one of hundreds of honest, if illegal, Mexican immigrants that we meet in the movie, all of whom are willing to pull their weight upon entering the United States. But in the face of an evil state senator of Lex Luthor standards (Robert De Niro, doing his best impression of the 43rd POTSA), they have to stick together to take care of each other.
Far too often, stupid action films take on big issues only to appear braindeft or annoying. Machete finds a decent balance, though – it never feels like a message movie. And with bad guys that are so bad (Lapidus from Lost, Steven Seagal with a katana and mexican accent), it’s not politcal so much as a great ass-kick in the face of powerful douchebags when they eventually get a nice big cup of comeuppance at the end.
To be honest, the film could lose ten or fifteen minutes. But that Rodriguez can sustain such unrestrained stupidity / awesomeness for so long makes him a rare talent, and surely somebody owes this guy a beer for it.