Robert Rodriguez’s Machete is pure genius and pure entertainment at every level – story, execution, politics, and casting, casting, casting. Watching the film this afternoon at Los Angeles’s Vista Theatre, one of the last of the still-operating movie palaces, with a nearly-full house at 1:30 in the afternoon, I was reminded of the sheer joy of movie-going. Robert Rodriguez reinvents the pleasure of having popcorn in one hand, a Coke in the other, and a knowing laugh coming from your throat every minute.
The story? Revenge, as basic as it gets. Execution? That’s what Machete does, bloody, generally deserved, and mostly excessively violent fun. Politics? It is all over the place. Only in Rodriguez’s world would a fleet of hopping low-rider cars stare down an army of Texas vigilantes, or cholas sport nurse uniforms and automatic weapons. Casting? That’s a lot of the genius – from Lindsay Lohan as a drug-addicted internet porn queen to Steven Seagal as a Mexican drug lord. Michelle Rodriguez and Jessica Alba have never been better, hotter, or more self-aware with the fun they’re having with the genre. And Danny Trejo as Machete is badder than Shaft, more hard-boiled than Sam Spade, tougher than Clint Eastwood and suaver than James Bond.
Robert Rodriguez continues to make innovative movies, films as interesting as the original El Mariachi and those teenage films he shot with a wind-up 8-millimeter camera (he used the way the spring wound down to achieve a primitive under-cranking – artists work with the tools at hand). His films have been smart, fun and profitable. But he still has to scrape together financial support. Although Fox released Machete, Rodriguez had to cover the film’s production budget from a variety of sources, like any independent filmmaker. Makes one wonder how we will ever discover the next Robert Rodriguez.
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