24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Danny Trejo

Critical Mass: 'Machete'

September 3, 2010 | 12:47 pm

Undeterred by the poor box-office performance of "Grindhouse," his 2007 collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, writer-director Robert Rodriguez has returned to the world of low-budget exploitation flicks for his latest offering, "Machete."

This blood-soaked shoot-'em-up starring genre mainstay Danny Trejo as one angry Mexican federale was inspired by one of "Grindhouse's" fake trailers and according to Tribune film critic Michael Phillips, it probably should have stayed there as part of the truncated double feature. "At 105 minutes, 'Machete' is at least half an hour too long for its own good. It would've worked better at that length as one-half of 'Grindhouse,' certainly better than Rodriguez's own 'Planet Terror' did."

But surprisingly, Phillips' pan is in the minority, as most critics are finding something to love in "Machete's" embrace of drive-in cinema's more lurid elements.

Continue reading »

Michelle Rodriguez: Machete reminds me of...Barack Obama

September 2, 2010 | 10:15 am

Before she signed on to make "Machete," the campy celebration of the eponymous Latino legend,  Michelle Rodriguez had pretty much decided she didn't want to make a movie about her own culture.

"I was nervous about doing a movie about Latinos. I've usually stayed away from it," she told 24 Frames, saying she found most depictions of Latino culture on the big screen to be one-note and marginal. "But after I read the script, I realized this is about a symbol of hope. It was kind of the way we felt about Obama when he was first elected."

Rodrigu The Robert Rodriguez movie wouldn't, on its face, be considered a grand political statement. Although it could be categorized as an immigration-law satire and an exploration of Latin identity, it's also an exploitation film whose linchpin scene features low riders shooting missiles. Among other selling points, it offers the rare triple whammy of Lindsay Lohan engaging in a ménage à trois, shooting Robert De Niro and dressing up as a nun, while the film generally takes advantage of most opportunities for comedically over-the-top violence. (It also throws in character parts for Don Johnson, Steven Seagal and Cheech Marin and a leading role for longtime baddie Danny Trejo. Read more about him here: "Danny Trejo, a lethal talent.")

But despite its goofier side, the depiction of Machete as a symbol of hope for a Latino community, at a time when, as the movie noted satirically, immigration fears were  running riot, heartened Rodriguez. And to the extent it shows Latinos and whites working together, she says, it felt even more ideological.

"It was like seeing Run DMC and Aerosmith doing that video together," she said, referring to "Walk This Way." "It was like, 'Yeah, man, we can all do this together and laugh about it.' "

Indeed, "Machete" is a hybrid rarity for a time when most political movies are starchy affairs, and most studio escapism stays far away from hot-button issues,

The film has had one of the more unusual runs to the screen, one in which fiction and truth blended together nearly indistinguishably.

Conceived and written by Robert Rodriguez in the mid-1990s, the script sat on the shelf for more than a decade, until 2007, when Rodriguez included a fake trailer for it in "Grindhouse," his homage to exploitation films with Quentin Tarantino. The trailer got more attention than the whole movie, and fans started wondering when it was coming out. So Rodriguez went ahead and made it.

The film then further caught on fire when the filmmaker (who directed the movie with Ethan Maniquis) re-cut a trailer at the height of the Arizona immigration controversy to make a statement condemning the state's law. "I guess it's been a little confusing about what this is about," he quipped to us when we interviewed him recently. "All I need to do is cut more trailer and it would really confuse people."

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo:Michelle Rodriguez in 'Machete.' Credit: 20th Centiry Fox


Danny Trejo's lethal talent

Machete's Danny Trejo will kill again

The unlikely politics of Machete

'Machete's' Danny Trejo will kill again

August 29, 2010 | 12:34 pm

Fans of Danny Trejo get their full dose of the Latino baddie in this weekend's "Machete." We'll have more later in the week from the character actor, who has had smaller parts in dozens of movies but is finally getting his close-up, playing a part he and Robert Rodriguez describe as the "first Latino superhero."

In the meantime,one interesting tidbit to emerge from our conversation with Trejo: The actor will reunite with "Machete" costar Michelle Rodriguez in a new indie called "Skinny Dip."

The movie is a revenge picture involving a young woman who kills a policeman, and Trejo is keeping it in the family: His son Gilbert will produce and likely co-direct. In case there wasn't enough of the ethnic pride/campiness that Trejo is known for in his work, the other director is a young filmmaker with the perfect name of Frankie Latina.

(No word yet, incidentally, on sequel plans for "Machete," though it's likely Rodriguez, who actually wrote the film back in the early '90s, has some ideas. Certainly, the movie, which got a jolt in development when a fake trailer for it ran in the 2007 movie "Grindhouse," plays on our sequel expectations, with a credit sequence that touts fictitious followups "Machete Kills" and "Machete Kills Again.")

The 22-year-old Gilbert Trejo grew up on movie sets and around movie stars -- Trejo the Elder likes to recall the time his son met Robert De Niro and did a "You talkin' to me" impression (Gilbert was 9). The younger Trejo also occupies one of the low-riders in the climactic scene of "Machete" (firing missiles from a rooftop turret, of course).

Danny Trejo quips that he hopes his son makes it as a filmmaker "so he can give me a job." With the mustachioed one currently booking 10 to 13 gigs per year, we suspect getting a job is no real problem.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Danny Trejo in "Machete." Credit: 20th Century Fox


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: