by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino
Rob: Welcome back to Reserved Seating. I’m Rob DiCristino.
Adam: And I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: Our Junesploitation coverage continues with 2010’s Machete, the first full-length feature starring the long-running Danny Trejo character from Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids films and fake Grindhouse trailer. Directed by Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis, the film begins when Mexican Federal Machete Cortez is double-crossed by bosses who are secretly in the employ of drug lord Rogelio Torrez (Steven Seagal), who in turn kills Machete’s wife and leaves his life in ruins. Years later, a despondent Machete is recruited by Texas businessman Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey) to assassinate anti-immigrant State Senator John McLaughlin (Robert De Niro). Booth, too, betrays Machete, and the latter man plots his revenge with the help of underground revolutionary Luz (The Great Michelle Rodriguez), his brother, Padre (Cheech Marin, playing an actual priest), and ICE Agent Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba).
Still, as I mentioned earlier, Machete might have been better off going a little more grindhouse. There’s violence and gore, but not TOO MUCH violence and gore; there’s unnecessary nudity, but not TOO MUCH unnecessary nudity, and so on. At the risk of sounding like an adolescent pig, I expected Rodriguez to lean a little harder into that stuff for this particular project. At 105 minutes, it’s also a bit too long. I know that’s a trite Film Twitter critique, but there are lots of bits that could go (the Lindsay Lohan subplot stands out), and I would have loved a dirtier, bloodier Machete that ran eighty-nine minutes.
Sorry, I’ve been rambling. Adam, What did you think of Machete?
Adam: Like most people who saw Grindhouse back in 2007, I really enjoyed all the fake trailers throughout the film, such as Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the S.S., Edgar Wright’s Don’t, and Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving. Those played at the intermission between Planet Terror and Death Proof, but Planet Terror was preceded by the trailer for Robert Rodriguez’s Machete. When I learned an actual feature-length version was being made, I was pretty excited about it despite having similar concerns due to Rodriguez as director. I often want to like his movies more than I do despite him having a handful I enjoy like Desperado, From Dusk till Dawn, Sin City, and Alita: Battle Angel. I think Machete is a strong entry in the Rodriguez filmography. Could it be shorter? Yes, but on this viewing (my second and first since theaters) it didn’t bother me that much. I think the pacing of the film is good for the most part.
Did you get around to seeing Machete Kills? Machete could have been so much worse as evidenced by its sequel. Also, a fun fact, Machete was the 100th highest grossing film of 2010, making this review a backdoor Reserved Seating Hundo!
Rob: I haven’t seen Machete Kills, but I’ve read enough to know it commits the cardinal sin of killing off one of the original’s major characters in the opening. I’m all set. Two questions: Would you like to see any of the other Grindhouse trailers go full-length? Obviously, my vote is for Edgar Wright’s Don’t. Second, with the benefit of hindsight, do you think the Grindhouse experiment brought exploitation films back into the mainstream the way Tarantino and Rodriguez might have hoped? While I’m not sure independent cinema will take over again the way it did in the ‘90s, projects like Grindhouse (coupled, of course, with the rise of internet fan culture) did seem to help reinvigorate interest in those genres by codifying the aesthetic for a generation that may not have been familiar with it and activating the nostalgia felt by those who already were.
Adam: I don’t think I need to see any of the other Grindhouse trailers as features as much as I did in 2007, but obviously would see any of them if they were released. I remember the New Beverly Cinema dubbed a couple of double features as unofficial Grindhouse 2 & 3 and those movies included Machete, Machete Kills, Hell Ride and The Man with the Iron Fists.
Anything else on Machete? I’m excited to meet Danny Trejo at the Monstermania Convention with you in August. I went to one of his restaurants (Trejo’s Tacos) when I was in California recently and the food was great.
Rob: Me, too. He seems like an awesome guy. An awesome guy who absolutely terrifies me.
Adam: We’ll be back next week talking baseball with a look back at The Sandlot. Until next time…
Rob: These seats are reserved.