Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Machete

Why do I want to be a real person when I’m already a myth?

Jarv’s rating: One and a half Changs out of four. By far the best of the modern exploitation films, and the first half an hour is legitimately funny. However, the film can’t maintain it, by definition, as it is a one joke concept. As the film tires, it becomes less and less amusing, and the feeling that they threw the kitchen sink at the concept lingers long after the final credits. Basically, pretty shit, but better than Hobo With a Shotgun and Nude Nuns with Big Guns. 

As Oasis sang in the 90’s: “I’m freeeeeeee to do whatever I want” and in this case whatever I want does certainly not include post-modern ironic modern exploitation films. I’m pig fucking sick of them as they’re all garbage, most are mean spirited and even this, the best of them, is a one-joke film that becomes absolutely painful to watch after a while. Machete is another one spawned from the Grindhouse experiment, and is the film that sports the best cast, has the best intentions and best understands the ethos they were aiming for. That doesn’t make it any good, though. These films piss me off.

I think there’s a fundamental disconnect in the minds of the people who are making these films. The grindhouse movies that were successful were made for peanuts, had invariably woeful scripts, were immensely graphic, hugely shoddy and yet, despite the previous flaws, something in them excelled and they managed to overcome the limitations placed on them. These “modern” exploitations, the nouveau grindhouse films, don’t have this problem. Machete, for example, has Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, The Ponytail, Michelle Rodriguez, Don Johnson and Robert DeNiro featuring prominently. It also had a budget of $10.5m (more than the vastly superior Centurion). This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, Grindhouse level film making. In lieu of this, Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Manquis have instead tried to jam it full of typical Grindhouse touches, such as the grain effect on the film (I wish they wouldn’t do this). My big problem here is that the original Grindhouse films were trying to overcome these limitations, whereas these modern efforts are deliberately lowering themselves to appear cheaper and shittier than they are. This is annoying, because do you think one Grindhouse director out there would deliberately have made his films look like shit if he had the money to do otherwise? Course not. Even the evil that is Thundercrack! didn’t have a grainy look to it, although this is a bad thing, because it did expose me clearly to what was happening on screen.

Leaving the trauma of Tennessee Williams does gay porn aside, let’s take a look at Machete. Danny Trejo plays the eponymous badass. He’s a Mexican with a big knife collection. Betrayed and set up by drug dealer Torrez (Steven Seagal), he’s framed and left for dead. Cut to three years later, and he’s scratching out a living in the US. We’re introduced to Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), and the Network. Machete is hired by Booth (Jeff Fahey) to kill Senator McLaughlin (DeNiro) who is in control of red neck execution border patrol scumbags led by Von Jackson(Don Johnson). Being pursued by Jessica Alba’s Sartana (the world’s least convincing Immigration officer), Machete is betrayed, hooks up with his brother (Cheech) and begins the search for payback. Oh, and Lohan gets her tits out.

Distilling the plot of this film is a chore. It’s all over the place, and they’ve literally thrown every idea they had into the mix. As a result, well, it’s a fucking mess. Lohan’s storyline adds literally nothing to the plot aside from casual nudity (and Nuns), which is not necessarily a bad thing, but this film is stuffed full of boob anyway. The acting is all OK- even Alba manages not to suck, but the problem is that the film is heavily overplotted, it’s a veritable cornucopia of ideas and Grindhouse features that aren’t united in a coherent manner. As such, it becomes very evident that this is a one joke film, and boy does the joke become tiresome very quickly. In fact, the bloody finale can’t come quick enough for me, as it finally puts the tortured gag out of its misery.

There are positives here, and they all come in the first half an hour: it’s fun for the most part watching Trejo (perfect casting) kick some ass and take some names. However, he’s only got one trick: to look big and angry, and the film as such is asking an awful lot of the audience to stay with it over the run time. While not actively reprehensible like Nude Nuns or Hobo, Machete doesn’t have the energy or invention to maintain the blistering first half an hour and as such becomes effectively a bore.  Still, to be fair, I have said that it does at least understand the genre, so when Trejo isn’t shooting or stabbing people, there’s boobs galore on the screen. Lohan in particular took time off from massive drug abuse to get her jubblies out, so makes the most of it by dropping her clothes at every opportunity.

Overall, don’t bother with this. It’s OK, and easily the best of the non-parodic grindhouse films (doesn’t hold a candle to Black Dynamite, for example). However, at the end of the day, it doesn’t have the imagination to tie it together into a coherent film, and doesn’t have the inventiveness to keep the entertainment coming. I do recommend this more than the reprehensible shit like Hobo or Nuns, but that isn’t an accolade. Machete is just not as cool or as fun as it thinks it is, and I’m starting to really turn against this self-satisfied film-making.

Once again, I implore writers and directors out there to stop watching the 70’s stuff to mimic the style and watch Bitch Slap. Let Jacobsen show you how the trashy side of cinema should be done.

Until next time,


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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

41 responses to “Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Machete”

  1. Continentalop says :

    You brought up Thundercrack! I know that hurt, but i am proud that you can know talk about that traumatic experience…

  2. Continentalop says :

    Lindsey Lohan bust her chest out in this? I should see this, just to see if she would work for the Dyketective.

  3. Continentalop says :

    Finally, fuck Faux Grindhouse. Just make a fucking movie inspired by old exploitation movies instead of trying to imitate old exploitation movies.

    I think it was Heraclitus who said “You cannot step into the same river twice.”

    • Jarv says :

      Just make a fucking movie inspired by old exploitation movies instead of trying to imitate old exploitation movies.

      That’s why I keep bringing up Bitch Slap in these reviews- that’s how to do it.

      I think it was Heraclitus who said “You cannot step into the same river twice.”

      He did, but I think he was being ironic.

  4. just pillow talk says :

    I had zero interest in seeing this to begin with and this just confirms it. Like you said, there’s not enough there to maintain an actual movie length film.

    • Jarv says :

      First half an hour is good. Then fast forward to Lohan’s nudity. Then fast forward to the end. Pointless film.

      Fuck these Nouveau Exploitation films. They’re ALL crap.

      • just pillow talk says :

        Would have been awfully nice of them to include the Boob of Lohan in the first half hour, thereby escusing any further viewing of the movie.

      • Jarv says :

        There are better boobs in the first half hour. It’s only curiousity over the boob of Lohan and the sideboob of Alba later on.

      • koutchboom says :

        The Alba boob was digitally inserted.

      • koutchboom says :

        And the thing with the boob that annoyed me was because it showed how fucking half assed the Machete character was. We are suppose to feel some sort of pain for Segull killing his wife and kid…..then they play him up like he’s always been this known ladies man? Just piss poor characterizing.

      • Jarv says :

        I agree. It was bollocks. He wasn’t some kind of ladies man- It’s Danny fucking Trejo, not Shaft or Bond.

      • Jarv says :

        Yeah, I know. Close as we’ll ever get with her, though.

      • koutchboom says :

        Or her boob slip in Into The Deep, but there have been speculations that that was a stunt double not her.

      • Jarv says :

        That’s just sad

      • koutchboom says :

        Well to be fair…it’s probably her best movie….well at least THE BEST SHE’S been in a movie maybe not the best movie she’s been in, that’s probably Sin City but she was useless in that she was good in Into The Blue. That movie as a whole is pretty good.

      • Jarv says :

        Best movie is probably Sin City. But she’s shit in it.

  5. koutchboom says :

    I’d still say Grindhouse is the best post 9/11 70s exploitation film wannabe’s.

    • Jarv says :

      In what way?

      Best post 9/11 exploitation film is Bitch Slap.

      Perfect example of the worst type of thing I’ve been talking about in these reviews? Grindhouse.

      • koutchboom says :

        I haven’t seen Bitch Slap but from what I hear it’s one setting aspect lessen’s it already. I liked Grindhouses ambitions, and save for 20-30 extra minutes of Death Proof it’s solid stuff. At least with Grindhouse they wanted this fun thing and it was still fun and fresh. RR is stupid for going back to it and QT knows this that’s why he moved on. I mean I appreciate the effort that went into the whole Grindhouse experience, it was something unique and I really enjoyed it in the theater.

      • Jarv says :

        No. It’s got loads of settings.

        It’s a pastiche of the Corman 70’s explolitation. It hops all over the place. The difference between BS and the rest of them, is that BS is FAR smarter than they are, and not in a smug way. It plays to the dialogue expected, there’s silly titty scenes, but it doesn’t look like shit and there are nods in the form of Slutty Bitches in Post Feminist America.

        It’s though, above all else, fun.

        Fucking Grindhouse. I saw it full length, and to be fair to Planet Terror, I was quite enjoying it up to the end of the trailers. Then Death Proof came in and stank the whole thing off. RR, should let go now. He’s making it worse.

      • Jarv says :

        In fact, now I come to think of it, Bitch Slap may fall in the parody section along with Black Dynamite. So it doesn’t count.

        However, I could argue that the comedy in it and the obvious exploitation are so strong and so well handled that it stands up as a Nouveau Exploitation in its own right.

  6. ThereWolf says :

    Ah, it’s another one, innit. The trailer as part of the ‘Grindhouse’ feature looked ace. When I heard they were making a full length version I did fear the worst. It still sounds passable but not enough to make me watch it any time soon.

    I don’t get the ‘Bitch Slap’ love.

    • Jarv says :

      Bitch Slap is so far above this in every way.

      On a really basic level: there’s no fake grain in BS. Also, BS has the “fur pie jamboree” line. Which I’d kill to have written.

      • ThereWolf says :

        I’d say using the one location hamstrings it somewhat. Feels like it should be a ‘road movie’ – these characters should be in motion, not bogged down in one place.

        Julia Voth (?) kept me watching. Couldn’t get enough of her.

      • Jarv says :

        Disagree, Wolf.

        There are lots of locations in BS- the Titty Twister, the mountain, the nunnery, the strip club, the dirty fighting bar etc.

        It’s done in flashback styleee with everything leading up to the cabin in the desert.

        You mean future Astrodyke Julia Voth? Nailed on, and she’d better be OK with casual nudity

      • ThereWolf says :

        The flashbacks were fairly brief though. It should have moved on from the desert. But that’s me, the fault is in my expectations. I’ll let some time pass and swing back to it.

        The Voth. A fine, fine actress. I concentrated purely on her thespian talents…

  7. docpazuzu says :

    Hate to break it to you, Jarv, but Lohan used a body double (as did Rachel Nichols in Conan).

    I hated Machete. You’ve hit the nail on the head when it comes to these movies. I used to like Rodriguez quite a bit, but he and Cokey have disappeared up each other’s assholes for good. The movie they made which felt most like a grindhouse film was From Dusk Till Dawn which I still find quite enjoyable.

    A movie which comes to mind while pondering the ins and outs of low budget and/or exploitation movies is the dumbhouse gem Moontrap. Yes, it’s a crap movie made for peanuts but goddammit if the filmmakers didn’t put on screen EVERYTHING they planned in the script, and it’s all practical effects and matte paintings. A huge alien spacecraft? Done. A 40,000 year old fortress on the moon? Yep. Walter Koenig and Bruce Campbell battling cannibalistic robots? Hell yeah. Space titty? Oh yes. The movie is crap and should by all accounts be unwatchable but it’s awesome and there’s so much hard work and affection behind the effort that you can’t help but fall in love with the movie.

    Fuck you, Cokey, and fuck Rodriguez too.

    • koutchboom says :

      Yeah she used a body double for the full on shots, but there are some shots where the hair doesn’t do a great job of covering them.

    • tombando says :

      Good to see the Pazoozoo back. Me? As the inventor of the ‘Cokey’ tag, you know I am no fan. I loathed Deathproof, and I can’t imagine sitting thru Machete or that Hobo thing. And considering how much Harold and the almadan goat banger spooged over these, just adds to the disgust. Spew.

  8. Jarv says :

    Space titty?


    I’ve never seen that. I shall procure it forthwith.

    • Jarv says :

      Have you seen new Conan Doc?

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        I finally watched this, tonight.
        Good review jarvik, dead on.
        I did not hate the movie, but it damn sure went on way too long, and was indeed just a one joke pony.

        The titiies were a welcome diversion, and some good imaginative gore.

        BTW the dude who directed Thundercrack bit the big one -my condolences to conti

      • Jarv says :

        Cheers TKD.

        It’s not hateful like Hobo or Nude Nuns, it’s just kind of shit. Plenty of boob, though.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Lindsay did get them out though, so that was a plus. Although the close up shots had her hair obscuring them!

        They really did try to cram too many cliches into the flick though.
        I swear to you, I never heard of grindhouse until tarrantino.

        Just did not exist in my neck of the upstate NY woods

      • Jarv says :

        It wasn’t termed Grindhouse until Cokey decided to ruin them for us.

        They were just shitty B-movie exploitation films, that’s why.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Ah, yet another reason to dislike him.
        But the dude does have talent, if he has not snorted it away, unlike shyamalan, who was a one and a half (I only partially liked unbreakable) hit wonder

  9. Droid says :

    Yep, good 25 minutes or so, then jokes repeated ad nauseum.

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