Just got back from Arclight. I waited over a year to see Macheté. In fact I have been waiting since I saw the fake preview at the start of Grindhouse three years ago. As a lifelong Tarantino fan I am one of few on earth who preferred the longer, complete Grindhouse to the two split features Planet Terror and Death Proof. I first spotted Danny Trejo on an episode of Baywatch years ago and noticed him since then in Desperado, Heat, From Dusk Til Dawn…..how can you miss him?
There is a documentary about him called Champion. Trejo was a young criminal and drug addict who got clean in prison. After his parole, he became a drug counselor and stayed out of trouble. One day in the ’80s he went to a movie set to visit a friend and got discovered. (His best friend was the late ex-con-turned-crime writer and actor Eddie Bunker, Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs. ) Pretty soon he had a new career playing thuggish feature roles in movies and eventually moved up to being a character actor of sorts. He has been in almost ever Robert Rodriguez movie — the knife-throwing killer in Desperado, the bartender in From Dusk til Dawn, the gruff mob lieutenant in Once Upon a Time in Mexico (“I’m a Mexi-can.”), and the uncle in the Spy Kids movies — his character is also named Macheté Cortez there. He was also the rapist con in Con Air.
I saw him in person at an outdoor restaurant on Sunset some time ago and then again at Dennis Hopper’s Walk of Fame star unveling in March. Hopper, who was frail and stricken with prostate cancer, died a few months later. Trejo didn’t hesitate to hang with the crowd and sign autographs and pictures. A big smile on his face. In the doc Champion, Hopper is interviewed and he says the two were sober buddies during shooting of a movie in the ’90s.
Macheté isn’t supposed to be a serious, four star movie. It is supposed to be a brash, over the top action exploitation B-movie, a grindhouse feature. Blood, mayhem, sex scenes (lol) and even really ballsy political statements about the immigration issue. Wow. But I liked it for other reasons. And I can only hope Lindsay Lohan matures like her character — a spoiled drug-abusing rich girl (oh yeah, uh huh) — does in the movie.
1. Macheté doesn’t say much. Old school like Eastwood or Bronson. “Macheté don’t text.”
2. Don Johnson steals the movie. I loathe Miami Vice the movie. The series is a classic, and Johnson is the coolest bad guy of all here, a vigilante militia leader with an anti-immigration agenda. He even outshines De Niro. Gossip: Johnson was Melanie Griffith’s first and third husband. Her second and fourths were famous Latinos — Steven Bauer (“Manolo, shoot this piece of …”) and Antonio Banderas.
3. Robert De Niro is a great sport here as a racist senator. There is the most awesome allusion to my favorite De Niro movie. Not Goodfellas or Raging Bull. He jumps out of his limo and hijacks a different kind of vehicle to get away.
4. Jessica Alba. Naked. I didn’t expect that.
5. Steven Seagal plays a Mexican drug lord compelete with a pretty good accent. I am impressed.
6. Macheté lives out what could be — this could be offensive — a fantasy for a gardener or any male handyman or butler or…..whose boss happens to have a hot wife and daughter. And you can tell it is a body double and not Lindsay.
7. The underrated Latino television media has a major part in the climax. The press is usually the bad guy in the movies and the Latino press is used for humor, but here they are the catalyst to an explosive showdown.
8. Cheech Marin plays Macheté’s gun-packing brother, a priest, but there is a part of the movie that despite being macabre and gruesome, I couldn’t help but laugh because Cheech screams and winces the same as he did in his hilarious Cheech and Chong days. Try not to.
Did I mention Trejo is 66? He is older than anyone in The Expendables and could probably kick their behinds, too.