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Now in our eleventh calendar year!
PCR #545 (Vol. 11, No. 36). This edition is for the week of August 30--September 5, 2010.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

"Machete"  by Mike Smith
She Flies!  by William Moriaty
Forgotten Films: Little Fugitive  by ED Tucker
Album of the Month, August- The Arcade Fire: The Suburbs  by Terence Nuzum
Sukiyaki Western Django  by Jason Fetters
Passing On .... Movie Notes .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf  by Mike Smith

20th Century Fox     
Starring: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal and Introducing Don Johnson
Directed by: Robert Rodriquez and Ethan Maniquis
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour 45 mins

Movie trailers (those previews before the main feature) are pretty amazing. Almost since the invention of film the movie trailer has been the main way of getting the audience interested in seeing your film. Some are short (I can remember the very first preview for “Silverado” consisted of hoof beats and a horse jumping over the camera….maybe one minute tops) and some are long (the preview for “The Godfather Part III” ran so long, and included so many credits, that people thought they were actually in the wrong theatre and were watching the movie being advertised). My favorite trailers are the ones that contain scenes that aren’t in the finished film. Did you know that Rocky Balboa had to give up his title in order to fight Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV?” If you didn’t see the trailer you don’t. Let me go even further. In the first trailer for “Patriot Games” there is a scene with Harrison Ford and James Earl Jones in an office. Jones says, "There's never been a terrorist attack on American soil." Not in the movie. You know why? Because that brief 10-second scene was filmed JUST for the trailer. Which brings us to “Machete,” which, if you don’t count “Spaceballs” being inspired by the phony trailer for “Jews In Space” at the end of “History of the World, Part I,” is the first movie to be made BECAUSE of a trailer.

Mexico. A young girl has been kidnapped by an evil drug lord named Torrez (Seagal). A pair of Federales close in on where she is being held. While his partner complains that they need to wait for back up, Machete (Trejo) decides that it’s time to kick ass and take names. Or at least heads. Armed with the weapon that inspired his nickname the big man separates no less than six bad guys from their melons in the first five minutes of the film. Subtle, no.

Three years later we again encounter Machete, now spending his time wandering the streets of Mexico, doing the work of a day laborer. Meanwhile, across the border in Texas, it’s almost election time and incumbent Senator McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro) is running on a strict anti-illegal immigrant platform (one of his signs feature Uncle Sam saying, “I WANT YOU…..to speak English!”). Among his strongest supporters is a man named Stillman (Johnson), who has assembled his own militia, whose job it is to kill any illegal coming across the border. Unbeknownst to Machete, he is being observed by a man (Jeff Fahey) who admires his tough attitude. He makes Machete an offer….kill Senator McLaughlin….or else.

Inspired by a fake trailer that played during the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino double bill “Grindhouse,” “Machete” is a perfect time machine back to the early 1970s when violent movies with plenty of nudity were made quickly and cheaply. But where those movies often starred people you’d never heard of, and would never hear of again, “Machete” is composed of a first class cast, led by Trejo, who is probably best known as “Johnny 23” from the film “Con Air” (he also played a character named “Machete” in Rodriguez’ “Spy Kids” trilogy). Strong and mostly silent, Trejo brings to mind the late Charles Bronson, an underrated actor who made it big as an action star. Machete is a man of the past, hence his weapon of choice. He has no use for laser-sighted guns or cell phones (“Machete don’t text”). He is ably supported by a cast that runs the gamut from Oscar winner (DeNiro) to tabloid joke (Lindsay Lohan, surprisingly sympathetic). Alba is strong as the Hispanic ICE agent who is torn between doing her job and helping her people. Another strong female character is Luz, played by Michelle Rodriguez. Both actresses rise above what could have been very stereotypical roles and give them emotion. Fahey, who in a beard bears a striking resemblance to Billy Bob Thornton, adds life to the standard “henchman” role, while DeNiro seems to be having fun playing a loud mouthed racist (I know who’s on my short list if they ever make a movie about Mel Gibson). Seagal is Seagal. No more, no less. Whether his name is Nico or Gino, Mason Storm or Casey Ryback, Seagal is the same guy. But that’s a good thing to this observer.

The blood flows freely here, as you would only expect from a film called “Machete.” Directors Rodriguez and Maniquis (who has worked with Rodriguez since 1995) set up some great action scenes, each one louder and bloodier then the last one. And, like the films in "Grindhouse," they have have made the film look like a relic from the 1970s, complete with pre-scratched print and jumpy splices. And, like last week’s “Piranha 3D,” it’s more fun than it should be!

On a scale of zero to four stars I give “Machete”  

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. This week's movie review of "Machete" is ©2010 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2010, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.