Monday, September 6, 2010

Like the Drive-In circa 1983, in 2010!

The Expendables (Lionsgate, 2010)


Machete (20th Century Fox, 2010)

The Expendables - Before the Camera:

Sylvester Stallone  (Death Race 2000 '75)
Jason Statham  (Death Race '08)
Jet Li  (Black Mask)
Dolph Lundgren  (Red Scorpion)
Mickey Rourke  (Fade to Black '80)
Steve Austin  (The Condemned)
Randy Couture  (UFC champion!)
Terry Crews  (Idiocracy)
Gary Daniels  (Fist of the North Star)
Charisma Carpenter (TV's Buffy, the Vampire Slayer)
Giselle Itié (Telenovela star)
Eric Roberts  (Doctor Who '96)
and if you look fast -
Bruce Willis (TV's Moonlighting)
Arnold Schwarzenegger (political figure from the West Coast)

Machete - Before the Camera:

Danny Trejo  (From Dusk til Dawn)
Steven Seagal  (Hard to Kill)
Jessica Alba  (The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer)
Jeff Fahey (Planet Terror)
Michele Rodriguez  (TV's Lost)
Cheech Marin  (Born in East LA)
Tom Savini  (Knightriders)
Lindsey Lohan  (I Know Who Killed Me)
Robert DeNiro  (Bloody Mama)
Don Johnson  (Dead Bang)

The Expendables - Behind the Camera:

Directed by Sylvester Stallone

Produced by Avi Lerner, Boaz Davidson, Danny Dimbort and 12 other assorted producers

Written by David Callaham and Sylvester Stallone (story by David Callaham)

Machete - Behind the Camera:

Directed by Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis

Produced by Robert Rodriguez and 16 other producers, including Quentin Tarantino

Written by Robert Rodriguez and Álvaro Rodríguez

    This is turning out to be quite the summer for maniacal movie fans - first Piranha 3-D swims into our faces, now this double shot of old school action rocks 'em and socks 'em at the theater.

    The Expendables starts right off with the titular gang (including Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Crews, and Couture) taking out a couple of dozen bad guys with action packed alacrity before heading back to pal/guru Tool's (Rourke) combination motorcycle repair shop/tattoo parlor for some rest and relaxation, which mainly involves booze and more thrown knives. Barney (Stallone) is then called in to a meeting with the mysterious "Mr. Church" (Willis) who needs someone to travel to the island of Vilena to knock off the military dictator there. But the job is up for grabs, and in walks the Expendables' main business rival Trench (Schwarzenegger). Trench passes, but Barney takes the job. In Vilena the general is working with rogue CIA agent Malone (Roberts) and his henchmen (Austin and Daniels) running drugs and arms, and there's an army numbering in the hundreds ready to cut the Expendables down - can even a gang of mercenaries consisting of some of the most popular action stars in the world stand up against that kind of firepower?

Every action fan's dream scene, or a Planet Hollywood shareholder meeting?

Speaking of firepower, there's also plenty on display in Machete. Longtime movie hardass Danny Trejo gets his first lead role, as Machete, the legendary cop-turned-avenger out to stop evil wherever he finds it. Which is absolutely everywhere. All the time. Nobody ever calls Trejo anything but Machete, leading one to wonder, is he called Machete because it's his weapon of choice, or is it his weapon of choice because it's his name? Well, you actually get the answer to that in the film, but I'll leave you to look for that tidbit on your own time. The movie Machete is the feature expanded from the at-the-time faux trailer on the front of Grindhouse (2007).  After an opening sequence in which Machete is ambushed, forced to watch some family be killed and is then left for dead by Mexican crimelord Torrez (Seagal - really?) he hits rock bottom and ends up a day laborer eking out a living on the streets of some city in Texas. He is drawn into an assassination conspiracy by the shadowy Booth (Fahey), with the target right wing anti-immigrant Senator McLaughlin (DeNiro). Nothing is quite as it seems, and soon immigration agent Sartana (Alba), Mexican activist Luz (Rodriguez), nasty vigilante border guard Stillman (Johnson), Booth's druggie daughter (Lohan), and Machete's priest brother (Marin) all get wrapped up into a pretty convoluted story for a movie like this. In the end, can even the raw power of Machete cut through this Gordian knot of plot?
The last guy who wore this coat tripped. They found him in 37 pieces.

    Truly, sitting in these two movies in the same afternoon was like reliving a weekend from one of my high school summers. The Expendables is a meat and potatoes action flick with the added gravy of an incredible cast of action stars of the past and present. Machete is a grindhouse style thriller with an amazing cast done to a T and that stands for trashy which rhymes with flashy and that all describes this movie.
    Everyone in The Expendables is up to the game, and director Stallone gives all of his costars some moments along the way. The standouts are Statham, (not usually one of my fave action guys) but terrific here supporting Stallone as his right hand man; and the diabolically dynamic duo of Roberts and Austin, superb in their screen villainy. But don't get me wrong, the entire cast is first-rate and it's great to see every one of them back on the Big Screen, even if this might be the first time for some of the usually direct to video stars. And how about that Stallone, still ripped and rippling at the age of 64? And speaking of Stallone, as a director he keeps the movie zipping along, with enough fists a'flying, knives a'slashing, guns a'firing, and bombs a'blowing to make The Expendables a must for action fans.
    As for Machete, it completely fulfills the promise of the original fake trailer that was the first thing seen when the lights went down in Grindhouse. And amazingly, they managed to weave almost every shot from that trailer into the movie! Rodriguez showed with Planet Terror (his half of the Grindhouse double feature) that he knew exactly how to make this kind of fast paced homage to the low rent action flicks he used to watch back in the day, and he suffers no sophomore slump here. His cast sparkles, with kudos going to Trejo, for handling his first lead with aplomb; Seagal, for jumping in as the movie's villain with Raquel Welch's unidentifiable accent from Bandolero!; and Johnson, "introduced" in the credits and wonderfully nasty in a role that I'm guessing was originally meant for Michael Parks. Everyone in the cast is in on the joke, showing up on set with tongue firmly in cheek; and if the joke doesn't always work, as is the case with Lohan's turn as the druggie daughter (it might have been funnier to get an actress less known for hijinks to play the part), at least in the end she's actually okay in the role, so I'll shut up about her. The R rating kicks in in the first couple of minutes, and once it starts, the movie never lets up with a constant stream of action, graphic violence, nudity and hilariously profane dialogue from beginning to end. I will say that Machete might be overlong by about ten minutes or so, but that's just quibbling. If you don't mind your action fare gory and gratuitous, then by all means check Machete out!

Let's Get Out of Here ?

The Expendables gives us The Line at around the 30:00 mark, as Stallone wants Statham to accompany him away from their plane and into town.

Machete did not go for The Line that I heard, but I will need to confirm that with a second viewing before I'll commit 100% on the no.

Eye Candy ?

The ladies definitely take a back seat in The Expendables, with neither Giselle Itié or Charisma Carpenter qualifying for the list on the basis of lack of screen time and import to the movie.

Machete, on the other hand, gives us plenty of Jessica Alba and Michele Rodriguez, so welcome to the list, ladies!

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says "If you want testosterone and explosions, The Expendables is indispensable. If you want the three B's (boobs, blood, and beasts) then Machete will cut your mustard. Check 'em both out!"

Til next time, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of Statham, but the man just tends to choose crappy scripts. Glad to see he's in a decent one for a change.