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After a violent shakedown from a notorious drug lord nearly kills him, Machete, a renegade Mexican Federale and tough-as-nails vigilante for justice, roams the streets of Texas, working as a day laborer. When Machete is hired by a crooked US Senator to execute a covert hit, Machete is double-crossed and forced to run from the cops and an endless stream of assassins. But what they don't know is that Machete is looking for them so he can settle the score.
For more about Machete and the Machete Blu-ray release, see Machete Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on January 3, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Directors: Robert Rodríguez, Ethan Maniquis
Writers: Robert Rodríguez, Álvaro Rodriguez
Starring: Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey
» See full cast & crew
Machete Blu-ray Review
“We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, January 3, 2011
Less than four months after Arizona controversially ratified its stringent immigration reform law in April 2010, Planet Terror director Robert Rodriguez released a timely retort: Machete, a retro-fied Mexploitation free-for-all that bathes the debate over border control in countless gallons of fake blood. Born out of a faux-trailer featured in Grindhouse—the collaborative Tarentino/Rodriguez homage to the schlockier side of 1970s cinema—Machete is pulpy, gratuitous, and self-aware, suckerpunching us in the gut with violence, flashing some titillating T&A our way, and then giving us a sly, ironic wink, a reminder that it's all in bloody-good fun. And it is. Unlike the spate of over-processed blockbusters that clogged up theaters last summer, Machete feels spontaneous and unhindered; you get a sense that it was as enjoyable to make as it is to watch. Judging by the internet hype, The Expendables should have been the most badass big-dumb-fun action fest of 2010, but I'm prepared to bestow that honor on Machete, a film that goes gleefully and unrelentingly over the top.
To illustrate, allow me to explain the sheer madness that is the first five minutes of the film. Rogue Federale "Machete"—played by craggy character actor Danny Trejo in his first real starring role—barrels his car into a secret hideout on a mission to rescue a kidnapped damsel. With his titular weapon he cuts a literal swath through a series of thugs—at one point decapitating three unlucky fools with a single swipe—and finds the woman lying nude on a bed, completely naked because, as she puts it, "it's too hot to wear clothes." Just when we get used to the idea of this sultry Latina as our potential heroine, she stabs Machete in the leg with his own knife and then reaches down, pulls a cell phone out of her lady parts, and calls in none other than Steven Seagal as Rogelio Torrez, a portly, samurai sword-wielding drug czar who speaks in a mumbled would-be Mexican accent that's sounds more like a cross between Brando-as-The Godfather and, well, Steven Seagal. It's ridiculous and—since Seagal is so game for it—hilarious. Rodriguez lets us linger in the comedy of the situation for a moment before Torrez summons in Machete's wife and brutally lops off her head. The changes in tone throughout the film, from laugh-out-loud to gasp-in-shock, come in split-second shifts that effectively keep us off balance. You never know what to expect.
The story proper picks up a few years later, with Machete now working as an illegal day laborer in Texas, where he's come to escape his past. Or, try to, at least. After seeing his skills in a back alley brawl, crooked businessman Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey) strongarms Machete into an assassination attempt on senator McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro), an anti-Mexican hatemonger who has promised, as part of his re-election campaign, to build an electrified border fence. It's all a set-up, though, with Machete as the unsuspecting fall guy. On the run from a buttoned-up immigrations officer (Jessica Alba), an Iranian hitman (special effects guru Tom Savini!), and a cadre of Hispanic-hunting rightwing vigilantes—led by a brilliantly used Don Johnson—Machete teams up with Michelle Rodriguez as Shé, a female revolutionary who runs an immigrant support network, and together they unite a standing army of gardeners, construction workers, and short-order cooks.
There's some pointed social satire here, sure—really, how couldn't there be—but Robert Rodriguez and his co-director Ethan Maniquis are more concerned with constantly one-upping themselves to deliver a balls-out exploitation experience. And to that end, they completely deliver. You want comically grisly violence? How about Machete slicing a dude's stomach open and using his intestines as a rope swing, or Cheech Marin as a pot- smoking, weapon-toting priest, pulping bad guys' faces with blasts from his dual-wielded shotguns? Looking for gratuitous nudity that's trashy and playful? How about a Jessica Alba shower scene or Lindsay Lohan parading around topless? And, of course, there's plenty of WTF, from a crucifixion and the use of a weed-wacker as a deadly weapon, to pimped out low-riders bouncing with hydraulics and gattling guns mounted on motorcycle handlebars. Did I mention the sexy, short-skirted nurses manhandling automatic weaponry? While the film is undoubtedly a testosterone-fueled fantasy, it's in a winking way that's more clever than simply meatheaded. Machete gives us what the average modern male moviegoer supposedly wants—explosions, one-liners, boobage—but takes it all to the point of self-conscious absurdity. It works.
Part of the reason it's so successful is that all of the actors play it deadly straight, even when they're mouthing what I'm assuming is intentionally awful dialogue. Jeff Fahey is perfect as a reptilian businessman with ulterior motives. DeNiro is a blast to watch, and it's good to see him trying something a little different. (Although his George Bush-ish good old boy Texan drawl does sound affected.) Even Michelle Rodriguez—who's normally irritatingly brash—finds a comfortable balance between tough and sensitive. The show, though, belongs to Danny Trejo and his termite-eaten fencepost of a face. After years as Default Mexican Bad Guy, he finally gets the role he was born to play. And I've got to say, I like Machete as a character. He's part Billy Jack, part The Man With No Name—he seems like he'd totally rip your face off at the slightest offense, but he's a surprisingly principled guy who's really just out for justice. I'm all for a sequel, and Rodriquez supposedly has two of them in the works—Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again.
Machete Blu-ray, Video Quality
For its opening sequence, Machete sticks with the artificially "distressed" film techniques that were used in the Grindhouse movies— jitters, scratches, some intentional fuzziness and the like—but perhaps realizing that this faux-retro quality isn't necessary to sell the b-movie vibe after the first five minutes, Robert Rodriquez quickly ditches the digitally roughed up aesthetic for a more modern high contrast, high definition look. And it looks fantastic on Blu-ray. The film's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is crisp, clean, and ultra-colorful. Clarity is simply exceptional. Danny Trejo has a face that was built for 1080p resolution. Every pock, wrinkle, and whisker on his iconically pitted visage is minutely detailed, and this goes for every texture on display—leather jackets, grimy garden equipment, the patina of well-worn firearms, etc. Most of the film is bathed in a pleasingly sun-drenched color cast, complemented by bold primaries—blood red, especially—and warm skin tones. Black levels are solid with the exception of a few dimly lit interior scenes—where they rise to a deep gray to preserve shadow detail—and tight contrast gives the image a nearly palpable, jump-out-of-the-screen presence at times. Finally, there are no significant compression issues, no traces of heavy-handed DNR, and no overt edge enhancement. I've said it before and I'll say it again here: 20th Century Fox's recent contemporary releases have been spot on. Machete is no exception.
Machete Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix isn't as bombastic as the sound design for some of the bigger 2010 summer blockbusters, but it's still a powerful, action-packed track. While the rear channels aren't used as often as they perhaps could be for ambience and atmospherics, the surround speakers definitely get a workout during the action sequences. Cars roar between channels, loud bullets tear through the soundfield—in one memorable audio moment, you can hear shots puncture some virtual windowpane in the space behind your head—and punches land with a satisfying crunch. The brutal violence is accompanied by a crunchy rock score by Chingon—the band that Robert Rodriguez initially formed in 2003 to do the soundtrack for Once Upon a Time in Mexico—and the music has plenty of dynamic punch. Dialogue throughout is stable, clean, and easy to understand. For a more complete grindhouse-at-home experience, you can also select a Dolby Digital 5.1 "Audience Reaction Track," which effectively puts you in the middle of a virtual theater crowded with patrons alternately laughing, cat-calling, groaning, and cheering. These kinds of tracks are usually gimmicky and pointless, but this one is actually kind of fun.
Machete Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Robert Rodriguez usually packs his home video releases to the gills with special features, so Machete is surprisingly bare-boned. Here's all you'll get:
Machete Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Machete is a summer action movie done right—it's pulpy and visceral, but it also has an ironic, tongue-in-cheek tone that lies somewhere between spoof, satire, and homage. The Blu-ray disc is a winner as well—with a striking high definition transfer and a strong audio track—although it does come up short in the supplements department. Regardless, if you're looking for something fun, funny, and as violent as all hell, Machete definitely fits the bill. Recommended.
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Machete Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Open Road Acquires U.S. Rights for Machete Kills - October 19, 2012
Open Road Films has acquired the U.S. distribution rights for Robert Rodriguez's Machete Kills (2013), the second film in what is shaping up to be an exciting trilogy. The film stars Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Cuba Gooding Jr., Amber Heard, Jessica ...
• Blu-ray Sales, Jan. 3-9: Machete Kills Schmucks - January 13, 2011
Machete was easily the top-selling title on Blu-ray during the week ending January 9, according to Nielsen VideoScan. Robert Rodriguez's exploitation extravaganza also got 41% of its total sales from the BD edition. On the other hand, Dinner for Schmucks only made ...
• This Week on Blu-ray - January 4-10 - January 4, 2011
Director Robert Rodriguez has spent his entire career creating films that fail to conform to Hollywood's pre-conceived notion about what an action film should look like. Thankfully, he doesn't seem to have any desire to stop. His latest film Machete, which is out ...
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