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Double D’s Double Feature: Machete and The American Reviews

Hey guys and girls! Jeez, it’s been a while since I’ve done a review. That’s because I’ve been ridiculously busy lately, but what else is new? Anyways, enough with my excuses, let’s get down to business and my business today is talking to you about a couple of new releases this week. First up, we’ve got Robert Rodriguez’s latest gun-crazed blood-fest Machete followed by the latest George Clooney thriller, The American.

First, let’s talk about Machete. This film is basically the last big, crazy summer movie of the season, so I figured I’d give it a chance and let the summer season end with a bang and what a bang it is! Back in 2007 I watched the extended versions of the Grindhouse Double Feature on DVD with Mike and Pierce and for some reason the only fake trailer that made the transition to DVD was the one that Robert Rodriguez had directed called Machete. It featured Danny Trejo as a silent Mexican killer out for revenge and it was definitely good for a quick laugh, but I never figured that Rodriguez would manage to take the somewhat shallow premise and turn it into a feature-length explosion of breasts and blood, but if I know anything about Robert Rodriguez, it’s that he’s excellent at taking paper-thin premises and expanding them into very entertaining films, and for the most part this is no exception.

Machete is no less than one big explosion of craziness. You won’t go more than three scenes before Machete starts making out with some random girl or someone’s getting a limb chopped off by some kind of sharp blade. It’s also hilarious, which is a good thing. This is the kind of movie that invites you to laugh at it and spends most of its time laughing with you. Rodriguez must have known right from the moment he decided to turn his two and a half minute trailer into a full-length film that it was going to be silly, because it had to be silly. If a film like this took itself seriously, then we’d have another Batman & Robin on our hands and nobody needs that. In short, if you want to have some fun at the movies sometime in the next month or so, see Machete. It’s pretty awesome.

One of my few complaints about this movie is that the plot is actually a little bit too thick (believe it or not) and there are way too many characters for its own good. Basically you’ve got Danny Trejo who plays the soft-spoken, but totally bad-ass Machete (obviously), as the four villains (yes, there’s four of them) you’ve got an old, fat Steven Seagal with a bad Mexican accent as the crime-lord Torrez, Jeff Fahey as the conniving rich king-pin Booth, Don Johnson plays the merciless lt. Stillman and finally Robert De Niro is Senator McLaughlin, a racist Mexican-hater who Machete is hired by Booth to kill, oh and I almost forget Tom Savini as a hired assassin sent by Booth to kill Machete. Then you’ve got Lindsay Lohan (of all people) as Booth’s daughter April (too bad she waited until now to show her breasts on film), who decides to don a nun’s outfit on a quest of revenge midway through the picture. On the good guy team we’ve got Cheech Marin as Machete’s brother who’s working as a priest, but still has a few tricks up his sleeve, Jessica Alba as immigration officer Sartana, Michelle Rodriguez as the underground Mexican hero known simply as She and finally Daryl Sabara (who you may remember as Juni from Rodriguez’s Spy Kids films) as the young rebel Julio. If this sounds like a cast too large for what should have been a very simple film, it is. But I’ll excuse this film for getting a bit overblown, mostly because of how entertaining it is.
What else can I say about Machete? I usually split up the paragraphs and use one for complaints, one for talking about the characters, another for the plot, etc., but I sort of did all that at once. Let’s just say that if you saw the fake Machete trailer from Grindhouse and loved it, then go see this. It won’t disappoint you. Even if you didn’t see the fake trailer, even if you’re not a Robert Rodriguez fan, if you like good, old fashioned over-the-top fun, then you’ll probably like this movie. Again, go see it. As long as you’re not uptight, you’ll have a blast. There’s a part where he uses someone’s intestines as a rope swing for Pete’s sake! How can you even top that?

So, despite being over-blown and ridiculous with enough implausibly stupid moments to fill a truck, Machete was too much fun to pass up. I’m gonna have to give it a 3.5/5.

Up next we’ve got The American, starring George Clooney. This was a film I was looking forward to based entirely on the awesome poster it had and the fact that it had George Clooney in it. I usually love most of his films and I find he generally picks very intelligent films to star in and hasn’t really made a stinker since Batman & Robin. I regret to inform you that after the first five minutes of this dull, languid mess, my disappointment continued to grow and grow.

Now, let’s get one thing clear. The American isn’t all bad. It has some of the best cinematography I’ve seen in a long time. The beauty of the Italian countryside is captured in a way it rarely has been before, but if I want to watch nice scenery I’d watch a travelogue show from my satellite provider. Another pro would be the acting and direction. Director Anton Corbijn (I’m so glad this is a written review, because I have no freakin’ clue how to pronounce this guy’s last name) does a decent job of making the jump from music videos to films the same way David Fincher and Michel Gondry did. He commands some good performances out of his actors, especially Clooney, who clearly does his best to turn a cardboard cut-out character into someone that we can actually feel sorry for. He also makes good use of his camera and his editor. Looking solely at the technical aspects of this film, it is a marvel indeed and deserves all the praise it may receive.

Where The American falls apart however is in the story department. Remember how I said that Machete had too much plot for its own good? Well, The American is the opposite of that. The plot of this movie is really really really really really really shallow (I don’t think I used enough really’s). Let’s do that thing where I explain the entire film in one sentence, shall we? Here we go: George Clooney (who never gives hi s real name in the film) is on the run from some hit-men, so he flees to Italy where he is hired for one last job to build a high-powered automatic rifle while he begins a relationship with a prostitute. That’s it. Actually, I think I did a bad job of conveying how plotless this film is, because that last sentence actually made the film sound interesting. It isn’t. I could almost feel the nervous tension of everyone in the theatre desperately trying to hold themselves from walking away about an hour into the film. Sure, the first 10 minutes of this film are amazing. It really starts off with a bang and it looks like it’s gonna keep its momentum. It doesn’t. We never find out why the main character is being hunted and we spend most of the movie watching him talk to a priest and build a gun. That’s it. That’s his super top secret mission; to build a gun. Worst of all, we never even find out why he’s building the gun. The ending of the film is anti-climactic as well and will leave the audience with little more than a bad taste in their mouths. Go see Machete to get rid of it.

The main focus of the film is Clooney’s relationship with a prostitute named Clara, played by Italian actress Violante Placido. The two turn in some great performances and they do an OK job of fleshing out the relationship between two people that are paid for rendering services that may not be 100% moral. This film is basically a character study of these two individuals, so if you’re expecting anything more, you’re going to be very disappointed. The problem however, is that for a film that relies mostly on being a character study, the characters aren’t actually that interesting. Clooney plays a silent, collected man who spends most of the film not saying anything, unless he has something worth saying. That’s all fine, but what the writer’s didn’t seem to understand is that if you’re going to have a strong silent type as your lead you need to do one of two things, either a) have the character break down and reveal their motivations at some point or b) have other, more talkative characters to balance out the main character’s quiet nature. Tuco in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and Ninja Ninja in Afro Samurai come to mind. However, neither of those things happen in this movie and we’re left waiting for something interesting to occur that never occurs.

So, to everyone considering seeing this movie, just know what you’re getting into. Don’t make the same mistake as me. Don’t believe the cool poster! The poster for this movie should have been George Clooney sitting at a table reading a book entitled “How to Make Cool Guns”. Actually no, even that would have gotten my hopes up. This movie is going to divide a lot of people, I think. Those going in with the right intentions of wanting to see an example of gorgeous film-making will not be disappointed. Everyone else will.

For pure technical merit I’m going to give The American 2.5/5. It’s a passing grade, but that’s all it deserves.

So, that about wraps it up, folks. Stay tuned for more reviews and more movies from my top 25. I’ll try not to neglect this blog as much as I just did, I swear. 0;) Anyways, I’ve been Double D. Keep it locked for more movie madness from the source you love and remember, don’t f**k with Machete!

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