Machete: *** (out of 4)
Machete is a movie based on a trailer, which was shown in between the two halves of the under-rated Grindhouse a few years back. The concept was simple: Danny Trejo kills a lot of people with a machete and gets all the girls. While there was at the time no intention of actually making the movie, the concept was apparently too - err, compelling? - to leave alone. And so, a few years later, the trailer was converted to a movie.
The most compelling part of the movie is, of course, the stuff from the trailer - the chopping, the explosions, Cheech Marin as a priest with a pair of shotguns, the inexplicably naked women. Rodriguez chose his set pieces without the need for an overall story line, and of course those were great fun. What's surprising, though, is that he didn't stop there; the movie had more characters, more story, and a whole lot of controversy tossed on top. And it pretty much worked.
I should note that this controversy was my second favorite part of the movie. It was just so timely! Both the movie's plot and subtext are greatly concerned with border patrols and illegal immigration; given the current rounds of panic over these issues around the Arizona-Mexico border, it was quite fun to see the movie go after this "head on". Sure, nobody involved seems to have actually believed any of the movie's calls for "an illegal immigrant revolution", but since when did that ever stop anybody? The very idea that the world was taking this seriously is hilarious, and it made every joke or scene involving the topic that much funnier.
As for the actual favorite part, that would the simple fact that the movie was that it was better than it had to be. Rodriguez didn't just build a basic movie around his trailer; he built a movie which is best described by that trailer, even after taking out the extra scenes/characters/story. That took skill, and it wasn't done at the expense of the movie itself. To understand, just consider if Independence Day had been as good as its trailer... okay, maybe that's too high of a barrier.
As for the rest? The overall storyline was foolish, the characters were cartoon-like in their motivations, the violence was over-the-top, and the violence was consistent and brutal. I really have no major complaints.
I seriously considered using the two-part scale for my review (how I liked it versus how good the movie actually was), I don't think it's appropriate here. Rodriguez genuinely made a good, fun movie; it was just marketed as schlock.
And, yes, I'm looking forward to Hobo With A Shotgun.