Machete Review

Remember in Die Hard when Bruce Willis took a leap of faith from the exploding rooftop, hanging on to only a meager fire hose? Machete has that too, but replace Willis with Danny Trejo and take away the fire hose, slipping in someone’s intestines instead.

Yeah, Machete is that awesome.

It’s a bit long in the tooth, sure. The overly complex storyline, pretty needless for what this Grindhouse spin-off is after, deals with four different levels of villains and an armada of heroes. No one will be questioning co-director Robert Rodriguez’s intentions here, the film centering around a profitable curtail of border crossings, and the oppressed Mexican immigrants taking their stand.

It’s simple enough for about 80 or so minutes, but Machete carries on for about 20-minutes too long. The genre needs only a few things to work, namely loads of gore and plenty of gratuitous nudity. Machete uses both for its eclectic mix of ridiculous action and Lindsay Lohan nakedness. Trejo plays the title character, living up to it too, preferring the use of close-range weaponry leading to chopped heads, stabbed stomachs, and the best use of a weed whacker in film history.

Machete himself is so awesome he wins a street brawl for cash while munching on a soft taco. He doesn’t even throw a punch. Machete vs. Chuck Norris would be a no contest, and audiences are given the next best thing, a sword clash between our lead and Steven Seagal. This is after near 70-year old Robert De Niro takes to the finale, guns blazing as if he were still 25.

Like the material that inspired its creation in the first place, Machete is a kitchen sink of ideas, slapped together on a limited budget which only adds to its charm. Well, “charm” may be a loosely utilized term. It’s doubtful anyone could cast an easy eye towards this over-the-top revenge flick, one with more decapitations and murder in the opening five minutes than most of all of last years action affairs combined. It’s immediately setting that right tone, one with flair, a bit of style, and well beyond stupid fun. Machete almost keeps that going right up through the ending.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

This movie is orange. That’s not just referring to the flesh tones or something either, although those are immensely saturated with reds. Greens come off warmly, neon painted cars carry a distinct orange tint, and the explosions are even more firey than they would be in real life. There’s nothing wrong in terms of bleed; it’s all under control. However, the effect meant to accentuate the heat of this Texas border battle is more than a little garish and tiresome.

The Fox AVC encode is otherwise striking. The only other flaw of note is the rather expansive noise in low light situations, resolved well without compression, but hardly establishing a gritty tone. Walls of the hospital or underground bunker prior to the finale are more or less riddled with digital artifacts, a wild deviation from the natural, pleasing film grain situation over the action elsewhere.

Without question, Danny Trejo has one of the most textured, coarse faces in all of Hollywood, perfect for this role and hi-def precision. As expected, this transfer preserves ever wrinkle, pot mark, scar, and pore in close, and even surprises where distance is concerned. It maintains this same level of high fidelity detail elsewhere too though, from Jessica Alba to Michelle Rodriguez, two actresses certainly keen in maintaining their smooth, fine skin. Everything still comes through. Environments are sharp, the exteriors of homes or a church at 1:03:50, all dazzling in their level of superlative detail.

Generally, the contrast runs slightly hot, again accentuating the heated aspect. This never creates an unwanted or needless wipe of detail, and the whites are pure. Black levels become a concern as they begin their digestion of shadow detail, bothersome late in the film during a stand-off between De Niro and Don Johnson. Dark suits lose everything they have to offer and hats blot out any texture they may have had. It feels designed purposefully, much like the extensive false film damage during the first action sequence, giving the movie a sense of harsh contrast that may not be pleasing, but hardly detrimental.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Punches hit like concrete fists within this wonderfully glorified DTS-HD mix, every blow accentuated with a healthy shot from the subwoofer. As Machete moves on, the guns seem to increase in size, and their weight on the low-end, easily pleasing to the audiophile looking for a bit of a kick.

It’s not too much though, a wide, accurate stereo presence still just as audible with or without some subwoofer accompaniment. This is a mix that is actually quite pleasing in this regard, capturing plenty of gunfire and such side to side, or at least as much as it does in the surrounds. It’s a complete wrap-around effect, conveyed cleanly. Unlike the simulated damage to the video, nothing has been done to dilute the audio fidelity, the style completed via some cheesy, generic stock effects.

Dialogue is well-prioritized, Trejo’s gruff, deep voice working over the center whether in the midst of action or not. There’s a lot of ground to cover too, a church shoot-out at 1:05:10 overwhelming with gunfire and natural sounding echo, laughs from the various assassins still audible over the weighty machine guns. About the only thing not satisfying about all this are the explosions. Gas barrels are lit up en masse, and a watch tower goes down in flames along with a small house. The bass doesn’t quite match the size of the visuals, but there’s still a small boost.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

This review is based on a rental exclusive as Fox does not send out screeners in time for release. As such, there are no extras. Should a retail copy be obtained, this review will be updated.

Extras ☆☆☆☆☆