As soon as I saw the trailer at the head of Grindhouse/Planet Terror, I knew I wanted to see a feature length version of Machete, and now three years later here we are. Disappointingly there was barely (if any) pushing of this flick here in the UK. If you weren't somehow in the know, you wouldn't know a damn thing about it being in the cinemas.
As such the screening we went to was a bit on the sparse side, but even still it was a ruddy good old time. The pre-title sequence is the movie at quite possibly it's best - to say it starts of strong is an understatement. Heads and limbs are lopped off, gags are thrown out to the audience, and generally speaking there's just a bunch of bad-assery going on for five minutes.
Continuing the vibe established by the under performing (Theatrical Box Office wise) cult extravaganza Grindhouse, Machete goes for the 'dirty old print' look (albeit in a far subtler way), and pretty much just wants to have fun with over-the-top characters in over-the-top situations. The guys are tough and the girls are smoking (and pretty tough themselves), and the violence is brutally humorous.
Sticking the various set pieces together (the best of which are found in the first half) is a plot relating to illegal immigration, which is fair enough as without that the plot would be drearily similar to countless other exploitation flicks. However, what is disappointing is that Rodriguez & Co never really bother to get into the meat of the issue - it's pretty much 'the proponents of a great big fence are murderous uber-rednecks, and those against are poster boy freedom fighters' ... weirdly, for an exploitation flick, the plot is a bit undercooked. If you're going to introduce an interesting start point for a plot, at least dive into it, rather than leave the stone half turned.
Indeed it's when the movie focuses on getting some of the plot out of the way that the movie dips, in that it begins to lack some of the memorable moments that we are treated to so regularly in the first half. It's as if the throttle keeps slipping in the second half, which is unfortunate, because when the movie is cooking it's on fire.
Danny Trejo is fun-as-hell as the titular short-talking tough-guy hero - getting great lines like "Machete don't text" to play with, and hot chicas to bed throughout - while the supporting cast dive into the fun of it all, most notably Jessica Alba, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, and Robert DeNiro, the latter of whom is a bit underused.
This was the sort of flick that had already shown us many of it's best bits in the faux trailer that preceded Planet Terror, although it was fun to pinpoint where the existing shots turn up, and where certain changes have been made along the way. Machete had a lot of hype going into it, so perhaps that explains the slight twinge of disappointment that I felt in the second half of the flick, but now that I've seen it, it'll be good to see it a second time - on its own terms for exactly what it is.
However, despite some slow points in the second half, and a slightly underwhelming finale, Machete is a rip-roaring good time that does what exploitation movies are supposed to do - give the audience bad ass dudes, sexy tough girls, and an over-the-top sense of action and violence.