Thursday, 9 December 2010

Machete Junction

Machete 2010 US
Directed by
Ethan Maniquis & Robert Rodriguez
Screening at UK cinemas

Travel in your mind with me to the dim and distant past... back to those heady and pre-recession days of 2007 when life was good. That year, stateside only, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino decided to unleash on the, fairly, suspecting public their new combined movie with trailers... Grindhouse!

The concept was simple... to make two trashy movies (one each) in the style of the old 70s American exploitation films of the 70s and in between their would be some equally retro-trailers (made specifically for the movie) by other guest directors. The idea being that a knowing post-modernistic audience would lap it up!

Unfortunately the reality of the situation was that Grindhouse did badly... really badly. So badly, in fact, that it didn’t get a proper release here in the UK! Instead, Miramax decided to just release the two separate movies with a few additional scenes and only leave on a couple of the trailers. Tarantino’s second half, Death Proof, was released first as he is a bigger name to tag your marketing on. Rodriguez half, Planet Terror, was released a month or two later to much less fanfare. Unfortunately, I don’t think the producers realised what they had in these two films. I was lucky enough to see the full version of Grindhouse on DVD way before it even got a release in cinemas in the US... hey, the offer was there and I took it since there was umming and ahhing over any release at all at the time.

Rodriguez' half was brilliant and that’s because he kinda exceeded his brief, in my opinion. He didn’t make a Grindhouse movie, he made a movie that tipped its hat to the Grindhouse style while at the same time playing with it and looking back on it with affectionate nostalgia... and it really worked as a fun experience at the movies. The normally wonderful Tarantino fulfilled his brief perfectly. He made a perfect, fake US exploitation movie exactly as it would have been made at the time. Unfortunately, what people failed to remember is that a lot of these movies were just plain dull affairs with an unsatisfying conclusion. And, in my humble opinion, on this occasion this is exactly what Tarantino made... a dull movie with an unsatisfying conclusion.

However, a silver lining to join the brilliance that was Planet Terror. One of the trailers on Grindhouse was for Machete... a made up film starring Danny Trejo as a machete wielding avenger of justice to help the Mexican people and free them from the oppression of the government. Three years on, Ethan Maniquis & Robert Rodriguez have made that movie... again in the retro-rose-tinted, nostalgic Grindhouse style and... frankly... it’s a really great time at the cinema.

Trejo’s ex-cop Machete is deadpan, supermacho and funny all at the same time “Machete Don’t Text!”. The movie contains unparalleled levels of goriness and mayhem and deserves to be seen by anyone who has an inkling of the kind of movies that this film is trying to ape. And that powerful cocktail of humour and violence makes you kind of giddy while you’re watching it. For example, a deliberately obvious set up line about a man's intestines being 60ft long gets a wonderful pay off a few minutes later in a spectacular escape from a hospital where Danny Trejo... well, I don’t want to give too much away... let’s just say that if you combine internal organs with Douglas Fairbanks style stunts you get a guaranteed laugh!

This film has a lot on offer too: a topless Lindsay Lohan who has sex with the title character and her own mother at the same time for her web page and then gets into a whole shotgun wielding nun kick. A gun toting priest played by Cheech Marin (this film offers you the crucifixion of Cheech people) and the likes of Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba and Steven Seagal all sharing considerable amounts of screentime together. And then, to top it off, Michelle Rodriguez as the leader of an underground Mexican resistance, SHE! As opposed to Che I guess.

All I can say is... if you liked what Rodriguez did on Planet Terror, Machete ups the ante somewhat and frenetically delivers the kind of thrills and chills that people would very much have liked to see as the second half of the Grindhouse experience from 2007. If you’re going to go and take a look at this bloody eye candy, do it quick as it already seems to be on its way out at the cinema. Oh, and if you do, make sure you stay for the announcement of the next two movies in the series after the “rides off into the sunset” shot has faded.

This reviewer will review these movies too in Machete Junction Kills and Machete Junction Kills Again!

One last thing... make sure you check out @filmforagers art piece inspired by the movie. You can also buy it on etsy right here...!

Also... check out @filmforagers own review of Machete here...


  1. Great post again by a properly informed cinephile who has the true interests of the cinema at heart, and we can all be grateful for that. Keep up the good work.

  2. Ok Devereeaux! I'm blushing now. Thanks for the very kind words. In the words of Chico Marx, I think I'm getting a swelled head!

    Thanx to you!

  3. Awesome post and good examination of the Tarantino/Rodriguez "Grindhouse" experiment in general. Personally, I adored Grindhouse, seeing it 4 times in theaters (it's very rare I'll see something twice in theaters, much less 4 times!) and making everyone I know see it with me. I'm so sorry it didn't get a regular release in the UK! It was just released in its full form on blu-ray here, which I'm grateful for since initially they only released both films individually and they didn't include the fake trailers.

    I don't think Machete quite lives up to Planet Terror (which I love maybe a little too much), but overall it's a completely fun and badass film and Danny Trejo is just too great in it. But I wanted more SHE!