Machete is Real

Robert Rodriguez has seriously done a 180 on us, the man responsible for starting in low-budget filmmaking and making an awesome first film as a result (El Mariachi), only to eventually get big enough that he could develop his own studio and go on to make summer blockbusting hits (Spy Kids, Sin City), has turned his three-minute fake trailer from Grindhouse into a real-live chop ’em up film.

Yep, if you’ve seen Grindhouse, you know how awesome Planet Terror was (in comparison to the crescendo of a film Quentin Tarantino offered – Death Proof). Don’t get me wrong, Death Proof is awesome too, but not when played after Planet Terror. Those two films should not be played back-to-back. But I digress, if you’ve seen Grindhouse, you no doubt recall the story of Machete and who the titular character is; it was quite memorable for its purpose. Well, Danny Trejo is back for the feature and so are some other familiar faces.*

Hopefully though, before this hits theaters on Labor Day, Rodriguez will spend a little more money on it than it looks like he has, and at least get the post department (wait, isn’t that him?) to apply some more “dust and scratches” filter to this thing, cause right now it’s not looking so grindhousey, it’s just looking poorly made.

*Not to mention: Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Lindsay Lohan, Steven Segal, Don Johnson, Rose McGowan, Tom Savini and Cheech Marin!


Before I heard that the Weinstein’s wanted to separate the conjoined filmic twins that are Death Proof and Planet Terror, I had almost forgotten I’d even saw and thoroughly enjoyed the exploitation opus. But to split the children up and take them away from their parent? For shame. The whole idea behind Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s double feature was to bring back the advent of the grindhouse theater.

A grindhouse theater was generally the name for a badly run theater which played numerous low budget, B-movie or exploitation films in such copious amounts and so often, that they were said to “grind” out of the projectors. Most famously found in New York City or Los Angeles, these theaters are (according to both directors) where they grew up, other than the drive-in theaters.

So, little explanation is needed to realize that Tarantino and Rodriguez’s idea for this film, was one of completion, even going so far as to fill the space between both films with fake trailers for horrific goodies such as “Werewolf Women of S.S.,” “Don’t,” and a fake commercial for the chicken restaurant down the street from the theater. Without the experience of watching these films as a double feature, the films themselves would be too disposable in the haphazard cinema of today.

Death Proof in the grand scheme of things really cannot be removed from this film because, unless Tarantino re-edits it, the pace is too meandering to be a palpable audience pleaser. There’s a nice payoff at the end, but the wait for it would be too long for an audience which only sat down thirty minutes ago, however, within the roomy confines of a three hour feature, it offers a great come-down from the preceding kill-fest Planet Terror.

Planet Terror
is the real “grindhouse” throwback here though, with its Hollywood actor cameos, excessive gore, dopey end-of-the-world plot, unusual-but-hip love story, stylized comedy and great use of distressed film stock. Rodriguez’s Terror could almost be cut from the same cloth as many of the late seventies, early eighties horror flicks which became so coveted during that time. But Tarantino’s entry with Death Proof is an important dissertation on women in exploitation films around about that same time.

There were a large number of exploitation films that tried to be serious or realistic. Likely inspired by the cinema of the time, largely handheld, avant-garde, gritty and realistic, these exploitative films just went the extra mile. Some were steeped in story and dialogue, losing all hope for being truly crowd pleasers even with the sporadic jaunts of sex or violence. Tarantino’s film takes the best of those and rolls them into one with his jazzy blend of Reservoir Dogs roundtable dialog, shifty chapter-like narrative, and blunt, plausible, ultra-violence.

Bottom line: See these films together, or don’t see them at all.