For some, the coolest thing about Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's two-for-the-price-of-one 'Grindhouse' project was the trailers for the imaginary movies before and between the directors' 'Planet Terror' and 'Death Proof'. And arguably the pick of the bloody bunch was Rodriguez's 'Machete', a revenge flick starring Danny Trejo, a very big knife and the gravelliest voiceover this side of 'Coronation Street' character Jack Duckworth after an all-night bender. A master with tight time and even less money, Rodriguez decided to turn his teaser into a full film. It looked like a sure thing for people with a love of cheap and nasty action, but just like a lot of very polished, very expensive and very hyped offerings, the best thing about 'Machete' is, well, the trailer.
Machete Cortez (Trejo) was a Mexican police officer who refused to turn a blind eye to the country's drug kingpins and paid a very high price for his trouble. Now eking out a wage as a day labourer in Texas, he's given the chance to make some real money - if he'll kill a racist senator (De Niro) who's stirring it up on the campaign trail. Machete picks his rifle and his rooftop but the job's a double-cross that leaves him wounded, hunted and on a collision course with the man who destroyed his life in the first place.
With a CV that includes everything from 'Heat' to 'Desperate Housewives', Trejo is a Hollywood 'go-to guy' for memorable badass, but he's more sidekick than leading man and 'Machete's script, set pieces and supporting cast don't give him enough to bridge that gap. While no-one was expecting 'Inception', Rodriguez on top form and making the best use of the talent at his disposal seem perfectly reasonable requests. Yes, there are guns, muscle cars, hot women with guns and muscle cars, nods to greats of the past, digs at US immigration policy and some good one-liners, but the film feels bitty and short on fresh ideas - huge blade, dull edge. Connoisseurs of this kind of stuff know there's a difference between classic trash, bad trash and just alright trash; 'Machete' spends too much time in the third category. Let's hope another big screen-bound 'Grindhouse' graduate, 'Hobo with a Shotgun', gives it to us both barrels.