What happened to fun?  With so much effort going into how smooth and seamless films should look, you forget how much fun it “used to be.” You know, back when short cuts and flash-framing got the audience through dramatic action sequences. So, while I can appreciate the advancements of special effects and CGI, I also like to “go back in time” every now and then to enjoy some good old-fashioned ‘shoot em’ up’ action. “Machete,” fulfills this notion quite well while adding a whole lot of blood and gore, a mantra Robert Rodriguez perfected during the “Grindhouse” collaboration with his good buddy Quentin Tarantino.

As the legend goes…There once was a Mexican immigrant named Machete (Danny Trejo), who worked for just about every law enforcement agency over the years. Widely considered to be the best, Machete wasn’t just good at what he did, he was great and after a while, that turned some people against him forcing him out the business he knew for so long. Now a renegade, Machete tried getting into another career, but with his extreme skill set, that was not easy. So when Michael Booth (Jeff Lahey) approached him one day with a job he couldn’t refuse, Machete listened. Upon accepting, Machete’s job was to assassinate Senator McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro) from Texas, who was out to get re-elected in hopes of bringing his corrupt border legislation to the forefront. But, right when Machete was about to pull the trigger, he was double-crossed by one of Booth’s men, who shot him instead. Turns out Booth devised the whole attempted assassination to build support for McLaughlin and his campaign, which had been going south for quite some time prior to the shooting. But, that was just the beginning to this twisted story of revenge and corruption, as the longer Machete was loose, the more he found out about what was really going on, leading to a predictable yet fulfilling conclusion.

Who was in it?  When I first saw the cast to this film, I was excited as it just felt like a good mix and match of talent. Leading the cast in his first true solo performance was Danny Trejo, who was just tailor-made for this role as Machete. Gritty and a little rough around the edges defines Trejo in this role and he ran with it, as I believed everything he was doing, no matter how ridiculous it was. That’s important when you have a supporting cast like the one here, which could have easily overshadowed Trejo. But, I never felt that thanks to a script that was a lot better than I thought it would be, given this whole idea came from fake trailer.

With so much attention on the action, you sometimes fail to notice the quality acting put into the film, but given the nature of this script, I was impressed with what veterans Robert De Niro, Don Johnson and Steven Seagal were able to do. Each had brief moments of clarity and wonder, which was classic and quite funny for the story taking place. Just for De Niro to agree to a film like this shows how much he appreciates this style of moviemaking and the same can probably be said for Don Johnson. Here’s a guy who has been out of the mix for years, so it was great watching him interact with the rest of the cast, which included the likes of Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin and Lindsay Lohan (Yes, that Lindsay Lohan).

Old-school mentality – There’s no doubt that most of the people that go to see this film are fans of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez or both. There may even be a few people that like this style of moviemaking, but either way, this film wasn’t made to make a lot of money. I know that’s foreign to most producers in Hollywood, but when you look at where this entire idea was conceived, you know all you need to know. I just love that Rodriguez actually put in the effort and time to do it, as it just doesn’t seem all that great on paper. But, I guess when you pull in a cast like this and add in all the gratuitous blood and gore typical for a film of this forgotten genre, it can work.

I certainly was surprised in how well this film was put together, despite any obvious flaws that I’m sure writer/director Robert Rodriguez knew about, but kept in for principal anyway. And that probably describes this film better than anything else; as you just had this feeling it was making fun of itself throughout the entire 105 minute running-time. Was it completely over-the-top? Yes. Did I care? No, because that’s the essence of why it was made and why Rodriguez and Tarantino brought the whole “Grindhouse” theme back to theaters a few years ago. So, while I could easily cut this film up like Rodriguez did with his characters in “Planet Terror,” I just don’t see the point. When the concept is one based from a fake trailer, anything this worthwhile and enjoyable is a bonus if you ask me.

Bottom Line – “Machete” is definitely not a film you want to take your kids to, but if you like a lot of outlandish action filled with blood and gore, this is for you. Going in, I expected the impossible and absurd, which I got; thus naturally, I loved it for what it was and what it was meant to be. So, kudos to Robert Rodriguez and co-director Ethan Manquis for creating a fun throwback to the way films used to be when audiences weren’t so spoiled.

B-

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