Machete (R) ★★

Review Date: September 2nd, 2010

"Review Proof" is a phrase that gets tossed around from time to time when a film in question is clearly made to be enjoyed on a basic level. It implies that the filmmakers behind it knew they were making a less-than-stellar movie, but it didn't matter because they also knew that they had a built-in audience that wouldn't care about all the problems that emerge along the way. Basically, "Review Proof" is code for "If you didn't like it, it wasn't made for you."

I, however, do not think that any film is "Review Proof." It doesn't matter if you're making a feature adaptation of a fake trailer about a Mexican day laborer (Danny Trejo) out for head-chopping revenge against the man who framed him for murder (Jeff Fahey) and the man who killed his family (Steven Seagal) or a film about the liberation of a concentration camp. All films, even the silly ones, need to deliver on a fundamental set of criteria of dynamic characters involved in an interesting storyline that's edited together coherently. If any of those elements are too far out of line, it cripples the entire thing.

With Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis' grindhouse throwback film Machete, there's nothing wrong with the characters. Trejo was born to play the eponymous, all-that-is-man stoic hero, but the glue that holds the often messy film together are all of the supporting players, particularly Fahey, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson and Seagal, each of whom is having a ton of fun chewing into their extreme characters (no one can be just a federal agent or just a racist sheriff or just a drug lord; they have to be the most outlandish, these-colors-don't-run version possible). The film's story isn't exactly original, but the "framed for an assassination" plot is a tried and true staple of the action genre for a reason, so it hardly holds the film back. That pinpoints the weakest link in this rather simple chain as the film's editing.

Unless one is curious as to how long a certain scene was, one should never be motivated to look at their watch during a movie. But during Machete I couldn't help but find myself constantly reaching for it as though it were some kind of lifeline, wondering when the minute hand would discover the magic number that could rescue me from the increasingly grating affair. It's disappointing that a film with as many decapitations and naked Lindsay Lohans as Machete can be boring, but sadly that is the case here. Much of the film slogs through a swamp of story arcs that were seen coming from miles away, completely forgetting that a movie of this nature needs to sustain its high (which essentially comes whenever Machete picks up, well, any object) without any dragging

distractions to kill the buzz.

It's easy to admire Robert Rodriguez's intended goal with Machete - to make the kind of offensive, politically incorrect film that played in grindhouse theaters in the '70s and '80s - but good intentions only go so far. In a strange way, Machete is almost too faithful to its ancestry. Sure, the violence is awe inspiring (at one point Machete repels down the side of a building using someone's intestines, for crying out loud), and its adamant refusal to keep things comfy and PC is more than welcome, but its pacing gives the film too much slack rope with which to hang itself. rated this film 2 stars.