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"Machete" is violently entertaining

By James Bright
On September 6, 2010

It seems recently there have been three schools of thought on how to make a good movie.

First, take a serious topic, hire phenomenal actors and put together a film that does justice to either an actual event or some form of art imitating life.

Second, throw so much money at the film that it has to be entertaining regardless of its faults.

Lastly, take any topic and make it as ridiculous as possible, while constantly reminding the audience that the film is supposed to be stupid, which in turn makes it entertaining.

Director Robert Rodriguez banks on the last of these formulas time and time again. His new film "Machete" is no different. It has a wonderful cast, a continuous onslaught of violence and one of the most underrated actors of our time in a lead role.

The film follows the story of ex-fedarali Machete, played by Danny Trejo. Although Machete's tale of loss and redemption is the main focus of the film, it uses current hotbed political topics like immigration and the border drug war as a staging ground.

Although the premise may seem serious, the film itself is not. It does a wonderful job of conveying a semi-political message, while continuously entertaining the audience with stupidity. The cast is the primary reason this formula works.

Although Trejo does an excellent job portraying Machete, Steven Segal's talent as arch villain and drug lord Torrez steals the movie. That last sentence may read weird. I doubt anyone has ever given credit to Segal for his acting and generally I'm one of the first to be appalled by his inability to execute this craft. Not this time though. He seems genuine throughout the entire movie. He's ruthless, cunning and basically the epitome of a capitalist. He alone made this movie worthwhile, but then there is Lindsay Lohan as a druggie, who ends up killing people in a nun's outfit. The irony is just too good not to enjoy.

As in any of Rodriguez's action films, violence plays a main role. "Machete" is no different. Just the name lets the audience know they should expect a few limbs to be severed in the movie. Although this may seem sadistic, violence in films like this are key to their success. They thrive on being over-the-top and so they have to push the limits of what an audience member's stomach can take. Imagine "Inglorious Basterds" without Brad Pitt carving swastikas into a few Nazi foreheads, or "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" if Johnny Depp had kept his eyes. The violence becomes almost its own character in the film, and we love it. Typically in films such as these it looks fake, and that's another reason these films do well. If it looks fake then "the bloodier the better" mentality is the way to go, and that's exactly the direction "Machete" takes.

Lastly, there is Danny Trejo. This guy is the ultimate badass Hispanic. I even have a theory that if a film calls for a tough-looking, take-no-nonsense Hispanic in the cast, Trejo is the first guy on the list to be called. I've loved him throughout his 20-year-long career, so naturally, when I found out he'd have his first starting role, I was ecstatic. He didn't let me down. From the moment he comes on the screen, Trejo is a tornado of entertainment. Between his incredible knife wielding abilities or his unfathomable ability to get women, Trejo gives Machete the character exactly what an audience would want – a badass, no-holds-bar good guy.

Coupled with Segal's incredible performance and the rest of the cast's ability to round out the movie, "Machete" is almost too much to handle. Luckily, that's exactly where this film needed to be and it succeeds in accomplishing everything it set out to do.


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