Machete ★★★

MACHETE is probably about as good a film as can be expected from something that began life as a three-minute gag. That gag was a trailer for a non-existent "Mexploitation" film attached to the start of GRINDHOUSE, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's joint ode to the B-movies they grew up loving. While I felt GRINDHOUSE was worth it if only for the amazing half-hour that concluded Tarantino's half, DEATH PROOF, I'm of the opinion that both it and Rodriguez's piece, PLANET TERROR, were far too long for what they had to say, and the same is true of MACHETE. Yes, the sight of Danny Trejo running around dispatching goons left, right and centre while Robert De Niro and Don Johnson ham it up and Lindsay Lohan plays a drug-addled floozy (ha ha) is initially exhilarating, but the joke eventually wears thin and it comes hard to ignore the growing sense that Rodriguez is simply using the minimal plotting and hammy acting of the films he's spoofing as limp excuses for, well, minimal plotting and hammy acting.

It doesn't help that, like PLANET TERROR, MACHETE doesn't actually look like the zero-budget grindhouse flick it's pretending to be. While Tarantino had the sense to actually run DEATH PROOF's print through the grinder (well, the first half of it, at any rate), Rodriguez's love of CGI and digital cameras means that his films simply look like what they are: healthily budgeted modern day productions with a layer of artificial grain and print damage slapped over the top. At least here the fake print damage doesn't extend beyond the pre-credits prologue and the faux grain is largely unobtrusive, but you're left wondering how so much money ($10.5 million, according to IMDB) could be spent trying to make something look like it was shot on a shoestring. (Meanwhile, the likes of Gareth Edwards has managed to ACTUALLY shoot MONSTERS on a shoestring and make it look like it cost a hell of a lot more.)

It is what it is, more or less, and if you enjoyed PLANET TERROR chances are you'll get a kick out of this too. Myself, I found it a pleasant enough way to kill 105 minutes, but it's not something I can see myself ever watching again.