a zoo in hell


Machete (2010)



What I'll tell you at the bar: Seems kind of violent for a kid's film.

The real deal: This is probably the best thing to come out of "Grindhouse", the anthology film that almost put the final nail in  Quentin Tarentino's man-sized pine box. "Death Proof" was a mess, "Planet Terror" was cool but seemed a little outside the genre it was supposed to mimic. The trailers for films not yet made were the best part of it, and this feature film, along with "Hobo With a Shotgun" were spawned from them.

"Machete" is the story of Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo), a former police officer who was betrayed by a conspiracy he was an unknowing pawn in (See "Welcome to the Punch"). His wife is killed, his bright-eyed partner is shot and Rogelio Torrez (Steven Seagal) leaves him for dead. This isn't a spoiler, but the sequence where the partner is killed is hilarious and sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Machete, in typical take no prisoners manner, hurtles his car toward the front gate of Torrez's fortress estate. In the resulting storm of automatic weapons fire, aimed only at the passenger seat, this partner (Vic Trevino) is riddled into a bloody pulp while Machete is unscathed. This is how you make an action movie, kids!

This movie is just a few dollars above the Troma level of filmmaking, but it offers similar pleasures. Completely over-the-top gore and action sequences, obligatory gratuitous nudity and dialogue which is a loving homage to the hamfisted expressions of the cinema that inspired it. Though parts of the film have digital film damage added to it, but there are other parts which are authentic recreations of the kind of filmmaking choices grindhouse filmmakers would make, both inspired and insipid. Off-kilter framing, unmotivated jump cuts, and off rhythm edits are all on full parade through the running time of Machete. Unlike other "dumb" films that have been released in the past few years, it is obvious this is a joke and intentional. The all-star cast of cameos sells it completely. Tom Savini gives one of his best onscreen performances, and Seagal works rather well as the unscrupulous drug lord. Trejo's performance is actually above the calibre of the material, he actually shows range far superior to the usual binary acting in exploitation films.

Relentless senseless violence. Naked women. Satire, star cameos and would you look at that poster! What else does a movie need?

T.A. Wardrope