Sometimes the idea of a movie is a lot better than the final product. Machete began it's life in 2007 as one of the fake previews in the movie Grindhouse. The preview set up the story of a blade-obsessed Mexican agent who is double crossed by the American Government. With his family killed and everyone out to get him, he mows down everyone in his path in glorious gory detail until he is the last man standing. I'll admit that even when I saw this preview, I hoped that someday it would get the feature length treatment as the concept seemed too cool to pass up. Turns out I was wrong though as Machete stretched out to a 90 minute feature just doesn't pack the punch that it was able to deliver as a quick 3 min. montage of kill scenes.
One aspect that has been giving Machete lots of press is the surprisingly large cast that has been assembled. This actually became one of the bigger faults of the movie for me because unlike another cast focused movie like The Expendables, the cameos in Machete sometimes took me out of the movie and stopped me from just sitting back and enjoying what was on the screen. Again, it goes back to idea vs. execution. The idea of having Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, and Lindsay Lohan sounds entertaining but once you see what they are given to work with, it never develops beyond a cool idea. The casting either just turns out to be too meta (Lohan), too culturally wrong (Steven Segal), or you just don't buy them as a certain type of character (Alba). Luckily, the two most distracting roles (Steven Seagal and Lindsay Lohan) are fairly small so it doesn't effect the movie too much.
Some of the casting does work though. Jeff Fahey (Frank Lapidus from LOST) is fantastic as Mr. Booth, the aide to De Niro's Senator McLaughlin. Fahey seems to "get" the movie and he plays the character perfectly. I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed Michelle Rodriguez as Luz, the taco truck driver who is also leading the "Network" of illegal immigrants into the country. Rodriguez always gets stuck playing the "sexy/tough" role in action movies and Machete was the first time I actually felt that's what she was. Kudos also goes to Cheech Marin for a fun turn as Machete's brother/priest. So while the stunt casting wasn't perfect, there were a few instances where it thankfully made the movie better.
One interesting thing about this movie goes back to it being based on a fake preview. I was actually surprised that the movie made use of the more iconic parts of that preview. It was disappointing to see that the coolest parts of the preview ended up being most of the coolest parts of the movie. I would have hoped that they simply discarded the fake preview and simply made newer, better moments and just kept the Grindhouse trailer separate. There were a few scenes that even felt awkwardly shoehorned in simply to have the scenes from 3 years ago placed in the movie. This isn't to say that nothing about this movie was exciting. There are still lots of inventive scenes/kills but I was left hoping for a lot more.
The last few weeks have seen an interesting group of movies emerge through the late summer haze. Piranha 3D, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Expendables, and Machete were all movies with a built-in cult fan base. While I thought Scott Pilgrim and Piranha succeeded in their attempts at hooking in an audience with a promised genre experience, I believe The Expendables and Machete slightly missed their marks. These latter two films fall into the pile of movies that were hyped up before their release and could never quite reach the levels of perfection we all anticipated in our minds. I still consider all four to be some of my favorite times at the movies this year, I just can't see myself revisiting Machete that often while I look forward to wearing out my copies of both Scott Pilgrim and Piranha 3D.