Four years ago, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino released their Grindhouse double feature (Planet Terror and Death Proof, respectively). In between the two films were fake trailers: Werewolf Women of the S.S. from Rob Zombie, Don't from Edgar Wright, Thanksgiving from Eli Roth, and arguably the best of the bunch, Machete from Rodriguez. Well, four years later, the trailer isn't so fake after all, as Rodriguez has turned Machete into a full feature, with parts of the original trailer in tact. Should this outlandish concept of a film have stayed as a fake trailer? Or was this expansion worth it after all?
Machete is at heart an exploitation film, and if you get that going into it then you're going to have a blast. The film opens when our titular anti-hero and federale (Danny Trejo) answers a distress call and creates a bloody mess with his favorite blade, before getting set up and having his family murdered before his eyes by a drug-lord named Torrez (Steven Seagal, who is the most unconvincing Latino I have ever seen). Three years later, he's working as a day laborer when he is picked up for an assassination mission by a Senator's aide (Jeff Fahey, a.k.a. Frank Lapidus!!) who is unaware of Machete's past; leading to double crossing to an epic scale.
If you've ever seen an exploitation film, whether it be blaxploitation, mexploitation, whatever, it should be noted that you should never actually take the film seriously. Sure, there might be an underlying political message, that's not unusual, but as long as you know it's ridiculous it's great. It's interesting how a lot of elements from the original fake trailer are still in tact with the full feature. Some parts are obviously re-shot because of actor changes, but overall the film still feels like what the fake trailer promised four years ago, so it's a pretty cool transition.
I was a little worried that because Danny Trejo has always just played bit parts in various films that he wouldn't be able to pull off a leading role, but for the most part he was great. He's very silent in the classic western type, but when he has something to say he's awesome; and when he's slashing away and using intestines as rope he's even more awesome! As for the rest, Robert De Niro and Cheech Maron were pretty funny, Steven Seagal and Don Johnson just look fat and awkward, and Linsday Lohan was in it far more than I expected. As the leading ladies, Jessica Alba and Michele Rodriguez, both played their characters fairly well, although I could never take either of them seriously; and Alba's "We didn't cross the border, the border cross us!" speech was just awful on so many levels... at least they both looked good?
Overall, Machete is a pretty awesome film and will have you laughing quite a bit if over-the-top ridiculous violence is your thing. Some parts are a little slow and boring, basically the non-Machete parts, but that's also what makes his scenes all the more better. I'm surprised the transfer from fake trailer to feature film worked out so well, and I wish Rodriguez had more fun, adult-oriented films like this; it's still amazes me that the same guy who made Sin City, Planet Terror and Machete, can go and make 3 Spy Kids films and crap like Shorts. Regardless, when he's good, he's good and you should totally go see this film.
Overall Score: 8.5/10
Viewing Suggestion: See this in theaters with your friends, then go watch Black Dynamite right after. And keep away from The Expendables; get that CGI blood crap out of here...