Movie Review: Machete [2010]

Machete [2010]

Machete [2010]
Directors: Ethan Maniquis, Robert Rodriguez
Genre: Action/Crime/Thriller
Language: English
Country: USA

Originally introduced via a fake trailer for the 2007 double feature, Grindhouse, Machete was turned into a full-length film last year. With Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis at the helm, this had all the makings for a riotous throwback to the old-school exploitation flicks.

Machete stars the always badass Danny Trejo as Machete Cortez, a former Mexican Federale who has been double-crossed by corrupt politicians while working as a hitman. In his quest to get revenge, he becomes entangled in an intense conflict involving illegal immigration. The whole storyline is pretty ridiculous and probably too spread-out for its own good, but it sets the tone for gratuitous violence and all-around trashiness.

Machete [2010]

If you’re offended by gory deaths, excessive blood spray, and full-frontal female nudity, then obviously Machete is not for you. This is a film that revels in its excess, and loves every second of it.

For an exploitation flick, Machete has a pretty impressive cast. Steven Seagal is a brutal drug lord who killed Machete’s wife three years before the film’s events. Robert De Niro plays Senator McLaughlin, a corrupt politician who is vehemently against illegal immigration, often resorting to violence against those trying to cross the border. Jeff Fahey is his right hand man, filling in with the same role he had in the faux trailer. Jessica Alba is an Immigrations Officer who is trying to crack the underground immigration network. Michelle Rodriguez probably does the best job overall as the sexy “taco truck lady” who also happens to be leading the revolution. Throw in some hilarious bit roles from Cheech Marin (Machete’s priest brother), Don Johnson (a border vigilante) and even Lindsay Lohan (a junkie rich girl, not far from Lohan’s reality), and you have quite the eclectic cast.

And of course, it’s good to see Danny Trejo get his first lead role after countless small parts over the years.

Machete [2010]

Machete is good for what it is, no doubt, but it felt like something was missing overall. It almost seemed like the movie tried to do too much at once, and lacked some overall cohesion. It’s still a lot of fun with some great action scenes and hilarious one-liners, but I can’t help but feel it could have been even better. It will be interesting to see what Rodriguez comes up with for Machete Kills, the inevitable sequel.

7/10

Heat [1995]

Heat [1995]

Heat [1995]
Directors: Michael Mann
Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller
Language: English
Country: USA

Heat is an epic crime film in every sense of the word. Michael Mann really went all out with this blockbuster, cashing in on his $60 million budget and getting the most out of the nearly three hour runtime. This Los Angeles-set movie is mainly focused on two men: Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), a veteran LAPD homicide detective, and Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro), a lifelong criminal and expert robber. Both men live for one thing — the rush they get from their jobs — and their personal lives suffer from it. Once Hanna gets wind of McCauley’s criminal escapades throughout the city, he becomes fascinated by him and tracks him on his way to his biggest heist yet. The character development for these two characters is outstanding, and it is easy to become attached to both, even though one is clearly “good” and the other is “bad.”

The movie is aided by an unbelievably strong and star-studded cast. Seriously, this is a who’s-who of popular actors from the 90’s (although not restricted to that decade, obviously). De Niro frequently shares screen time with his group of thieves, which includes Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo and Kevin Gage. There are also small, but important, roles from Jon Voight, William Fichtner and Dennis Haysbert. Even a very young Natalie Portman is in this movie. Each of these characters has a fleshed-out storyline to make the viewer care about them, and that is impressive even with the movie’s extended running time.

And yeah, about that length. It took me a while to get around to this movie due to its prolonged running time. This is a long crime saga, and you have to be prepared to sit down for the full three hours to get through it. Is it worth watching all the way through? Yes, absolutely! While there are a number of subplots weaving in and out of the main storyline (some that probably could have been omitted), this is still very much an exceptional film due to excellent acting, a strong script and some downright badass scenes.

There are two scenes in particular that everyone talks about whenever Heat is brought up. One is the bank heist/shootout, an elongated gun battle that is quite possibly one of the best firefights ever recorded in film. The other is a sit-down scene where Pacino and De Niro have a cup of coffee, the very first time the actors have appeared together on screen. Much was made of this encounter when the movie came out, and it is still interesting to see it today. Both scenes are phenomenal, albeit in very different ways.

Some will cry that Mann went overboard with this movie, trying to cram too many stories into one film. I agree that a little probably could have been trimmed off the top, but I still very much enjoyed Heat. This is one of the best crime sagas that I have seen, and its frequent praise is well-deserved.

8.5/10