In recent years a new generation of filmmakers has begun to emerge on the cinematic scene. These auteurs may have formal training in some academic institution of higher learning but more importantly their style was forged in the same movie houses as our generation, the baby boomers, frequented as teens. This commonality in movie experiences provided these writers and directors were greatly influenced by their favorite movies, the same ones their audiences watched and enjoyed. One common source of flicks in the seventies was the grind houses. These theaters were typically located in the less savory neighborhoods and usually not in the best structural condition. Their appeal was simple; they were cheap and tended to showcase flick that were produced only for the purpose of pure entertainment. There are no intrinsic social issues or deep consideration of human motivation just sheer all out sex, action and pounding sound track. This form of movies best known as exploitation flicks has been denounced by parents, educators, clergy and even federal legislators but none of that ever deterred us from trekking to the local grind house or drive-in to watch these flick while laughing, groaning and joking with our friends. This was interactive entertainment long before computers entered into the equation. These filmmakers sat in theaters exactly like the ones we frequented, not as directors but as fans just like us. This permits them to form a real bond with their audiences based on the most powerful means possible; a shared experience leading to similar tastes and sensibilities in cinema. Two cutting edge directors have created a renaissance for grind house flick; Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez reignited the type of movie making with their grind house double feature ‘Death Proof’ and ‘Planet Terror’. These movies became so popular that they immediately generated a number of other films of this ilk. ‘Machete’, considered here is a perfect example of what we used to enjoy in our younger days. This film is made in the image of the classic grind house flick but with a more mature style. Robert Rodriguez made have begun his passion for movies with the most inexpensive variety of this sort of movie but the fact that he has grown significantly as a director is clearly evident here. This is an exploitation movie crafted to appeal specifically to the grown up versions of the youths that sat in those dark, dilapidated theaters having fun with films like this.
Traditionally an exploitation flick is not traditionally known to be overly concerned with story integrity. It was not uncommon for an entire movie to come out of the filmiest concepts possible. In the case of ‘Machete’ Rodriguez held to the aspect of grind house by basing the film on a phony trailer used in his ‘Planet Terror’ section of the Grindhouse’ experience he did with his friend and frequent collaborator, Quentin Tarantino. What made those movies so remarkable is how the filmmakers took great care duplicating the battered film and action packed trailers that made watching these films such a completely entertaining experience. For fans of these flicks watching that faux trailer had the same effect as the ones show years ago; you can’t wait to see the movie. The trailer may have inspired a desire to see a nonexistent film that is until it came into reality. Staring in this film is a craggy face familiar to many movies and television shows including a considerable number directed by Rodriguez, Danny Trejo. It should come as no surprise that this heavily muscular and tattooed man spent some time in jail for violent offenses until he turned around his life. This adds a degree of realism that makes this movie a cut above the usual grind house flick. It is also evident that Trejo is an excellent actor, at least if puppies and kittens are not plot points. If you need a knife wielding, menacing biker type you can’t ask for better.
Prior to his inclusion in the fake trailer the character of ‘Machete’ was originated in the most unlikely source for such a violent man, the popular family film franchise, ‘Spy Kids’ also created by Robert Rodriguez. In this incarnation Machete is a common trope in exploitation flick, the cop so effective that he is hunted as a criminal. Machete Cortez (Trejo) is a rare Mexican Federale, honest and incorruptible. During a raid he is betrayed by his own superior who is bought and paid for by a powerful drug lord, Rogelio Torrez (Steven Seagal). Machete’s wife and daughter are brutally slaughtered while a severely wounded Machete is left for dead. The former lawman becomes a drifter finding odd jobs along the Texas border towns. He is hired by the local political maven, Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey), to kill Texas State Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) who is deporting illegal immigrants. After being threatened Machete takes the job only to be doubled crossed and set up by the real author of the plot, the senator. He was trying to push is tough position on illegal immigration through a fake assignation attempt. What follows is an explosive and bloody vendetta against Booth and McLaughlin.
Part of any grind house flick worth the popcorn split on the floor is the appearance of beautiful women. This movie boasts a pair of incredibly gorgeous and talented actresses. Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) is the leader of a militant underground immigrant movement and Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba), a persistent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent and Machete’s lover. Also making an appearance is Lindsay Lohan as Booth’s daughter who appears in an adult film. This represents the two major archetypes for women; the mindless sex symbol and the tough as nails gal who can shoot, stab and generate mayhem as well as any man. Alba and Rodriguez are incredible causing a body count that rivals Machete. Robert Rodriguez is an actor’s director who tends to use a core group of talented people in his films. he also is able to attract A list actors like Di Nitro. This is what made this better constructed film than usual but still permitted him to retain every element of this type of movie that we greatly enjoyed.