Machete (USA 2010)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Ethan Maniquis
With: Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro
Showing at: Movieplex Cinema Plaza, Hollywood Multiplex, Cinema City Cotroceni, Cinema City Sun Plaza, Cinema City Cotroceni VIP
Verdict: Not for the entire family
Fans who saw the trailer in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 “Grindhouse” double-feature continually asked Rodriguez to turn the make-believe ad featuring Danny Trejo into a real blood-and-guts vengeance story and so he did. Rodriguez has complied, maintaining a fair amount of the wicked humour and every bit of the savage bloodshed the trailer promised. And those who will choose to go for it will have precisely what they are paying for, I mean the entire lot, from beheadings to blood spatter in abundance and kill shots to the head by the dozen, with other means of dispatch: death by corkscrew, high heels, crucifixion. Just exhilarating.
They also get a crazy range of supporting players — Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan. Watching all this deliberately twisted and B-series mess, you come to think director Rodriguez is like a child in a candy store only this time we are talking of a pretty twisted kid in a very sick and distressing candy store – but fans of his R-rated stuff, including “From Dusk Till Dawn” and the “El Mariachi” movies, already knew that and are on board.
They’ll most definitely be on board with “Machete,” which gives ex-prison inmate Trejo his first lead role in a long career of small parts as taciturn tough guys who choose their words carefully.
Trejo’s Machete doesn’t talk much, either, but he’s a commandingly fun presence, a former Mexican federal cop working as a day labourer in Texas after being left for dead by drug kingpin Torrez (Seagal), who also killed his family. Trouble follows Machete, who goes on the run after he’s hired as the fall guy in an assassination attempt on a radically conservative anti-immigration state senator (De Niro).
After a series of misfortunate choices, De Niro is finally back to his crazy self in this part, with a Southern drawl reminiscent of his accent in “Cape Fear” as he plays the senator’s comic-book xenophobia with joyous frenzy. There are clever wisecracks, and some of the action is fresh and inventive, if you don’t mind blood and body parts flying in all directions.
Marmaduke (USA 2010)
Directed by Tom Dey
With: Owen Wilson, George Lopez, Emma Stone, Kiefer Sutherland
Showing at: Movieplex Cinema Plaza, Hollywood Multiplex, Cinema City Cotroceni, Cinema City Cotroceni VIP
Verdict: Entertaining and highly forgettable family stuff
Based on an American comic series that has been successful for over 50 years, Marmaduke is your standard-format talking dog flick.
Marmaduke is a big, lumbering, slobbering Great Dane. Size-wise, he’s just south of a racehorse. Coordination-wise, well, let’s just say no scenery, props or two-legged castmates stand a chance of remaining upright for long in his company. Vocalised by Wilson, Marmaduke is a quick-yapping wisecracker always at the ready with some kennel-spun pearls of wisdom about how dumb humans can be. The effects technology that permits Marmaduke to speak takes some getting used to, as the computer-animated jaws of all the canine characters on-screen here move in a slightly creepy way. There isn’t much of a storyline here: all that really happens is that Marmaduke’s happy-family household is transplanted from Kansas to California.
There is a cross-breed love triangle (Marmaduke has a crush on a glamour collie, while a mutt with a heart of gold looks on longingly), a rather tense all-dog surfing contest, and a menacing Doberman (Kiefer Sutherland) who is the villain of the piece. Not much to say, except the movie will definitely find a way to the hearts of toddlers. The rest, well, should better just sit in the dark and gulp in silence.