x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Machete is a disappointment at every turn

The exploitation thriller is further proof of the director Robert Rodriguez's fundamental inability to tell a coherent screen story.


Director: Robert Rodriguez 

Starring: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro

A disappointment at every turn, and further proof of the director Rodriguez's fundamental inability to tell a coherent screen story (his last, really, was The Faculty, in 1998), the exploitation thriller Machete is nothing if not messy. 

Here, Rodriguez initially launches himself at the movie with buckets of formal brio, and creates in its first 10 minutes another loving homage to the high era of 1970s exploitation cinema, as seen in 2007's Planet Terror, his own contribution to the infamously unsuccessful Tarantino-inspired Grindhouse double-bill. 

Thus, through scratchy film stock and shoestring production design, we get the back-story of a lethal Mexican super-agent called Machete Cortez (Trejo, grimacing throughout), and how the murder of his beloved wife at the hands of a sword-wielding mobster called Torrez (Steven Seagal) transforms him into an avenging angel. And yet, almost as soon as this pre-credits sequence fades and the main narrative begins, so too does the tension fizzle completely out of Machete. What we're left with, for another 100 minutes, is a convoluted story that involves a racist Texan senator called John McLaughlin (De Niro), his bigoted paramilitary buddy, Von Jackson (Don Johnson), and their plans to remove all the Mexicans from US soil. 

The results, which includes the world's most gratuitous shower scene (step forward immigration agent Jessica Alba), veer from being mildly puerile to consistently tedious to inescapably offensive. For example, shooting pregnant Mexican women for laughs may be ironic on paper, but on screen it needs a stronger director to mould the meaning. And Rodriguez simply isn't up to the task. 

Overall, a bore.