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Film review: 'Machete' too violent

September 08, 2010|By BOB GARVER / Special to The Herald-Mail

It's not unusual to compare a feature film to its trailer. It's the best way to get a feel for the look and style of the film, sometimes for months at a time.

Trailers are created by professional editors, who usually make the film look better than it is. Sometimes they do this by giving away the best parts of the movie for free, sometimes they do this by throwing together scenes with several different characters and settings to make it look like the film is fast-paced and a lot happens. There is always pressure for the finished product to live up to its well-crafted trailer.

The pressure is really on Robert Rodriguez's "Machete" because it's been around in trailer form for more than three years. Rodriguez filmed the trailer to show before his half of 2007's "Grindhouse." He filmed the trailer, not the film. There was no film. There was never supposed to be a film. Fans liked the trailer, Rodriguez decided to make the film. Now we have the film.

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Fans of the original trailer know that Machete (Danny Trejo) is an ex-federale who is hired by the mysterious Booth (Jeff Fahey) to assassinate a senator. Booth then double crosses Machete, who goes on a violence-filled revenge spree with the help of his priest brother (Cheech Marin). There's a steamy scene in there somewhere where Machete gets into a hot tub with Booth's wife and daughter. But it's mostly about the violence-filled revenge spree.

Three years later, the plot has more detail. The senator is played by Robert DeNiro. Booth's daughter is Lindsay Lohan. There's a storyline about border crossing and a network of undercover agents who help illegal immigrants into America. Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) runs the network, the evil Von (Don Johnson) shoots them just before they get to the line. Sartana (Jessica Alba) is a border patrol agent who at first wants to deport illegal Mexicans, but becomes conflicted when she becomes aware of the conspiracy involving Booth and the senator. And Steven Segal is a drug lord who forced Machete out of Mexico in the first place, and now wants him taken out for good.

The film does deliver on the trailer's promise to contain lots of blood and violence. Machete hates guns, but we get more than our fair share of shooting. One scene sees an internal organ removed, another sees a drawn-out crucifixion. Then there are slashings and pokings with a variety of unpleasant tools, including, obviously, a machete. If you hate violent scenes, stay far away from "Machete," and even if you don't hate them, keep your kids away.

There is a lot of violence in "Machete" to be sure, but there's a lot of everything. More accurately, there's too much of everything. Everything about the film is more drawn-out than it should be. The action scenes, while quick and crisp in the trailer, now seem needlessly deliberate and as a result are unpleasant. The dialogue, originally catchy and quotable, is now milked for so long by the cast that it loses all its appeal. Transitional scenes are particularly problematic. I know that all the scenes can't be blood-boilers (even if the trailer makes it look that way), but can the actors at least say and do things that make my blood run cold?

Nope, "Machete" is just a lukewarm mess. The film doesn't live up to its recent advertising and it certainly isn't worth the three-year wait from the original trailer. It was one thing for Robert Rodriguez to promise nonstop action and excitement when nobody was expecting him to deliver. It's another thing for him to let us down after he's promised to deliver (and we've paid our ticket prices expecting him to deliver). Many movies seem better as a three-minute trailer. "Machete" was better when it was only a three-minute trailer.

The film is rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language, some sexual content, and nudity. Its runtime is 105 minutes.

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