Machete comes to US Region A-locked Blu-ray with 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 1.85:1. Now anybody familiar with Rodriguez’s trademark ‘grindhouse’ style should also know what to expect here – the image faux-damaged, aged, scratched and jumpy, all made to look like some dodgy 70s b-movie exploitation flick – but you should also be aware that this is, without a doubt, a much cleaner, smoother image than on Planet Terror. There are no ‘missing reels’, and the gritty style actually looks stylish this time round, rather than just a distracting gimmick. With that in mind, you’ll actually find the picture here – when not purposefully damaged – looks pretty damn good. Detail is excellent throughout from the wider shots, to the close-ups. I bet Danny Trejo would have preferred soft focus for his weathered visage – honestly, he looks like he’s been dragged across tarmac face-first! – and you can literally see ever strand of hair, every wrinkle, blemish, even skin pore. And there are no signs of any (unintentional) print damage, defects or digital artefacts. Edge enhancement is non-existent, DNR doesn’t even register on the radar and overall, for such a ‘grindhouse’-style flick, Machete actually makes for a superior high definition visual ride. The colour scheme helps no end, although it is perhaps the only area where you may wonder whether things have gone marginally off-piste. Colours are bright and vivid throughout – from the sun-drenched locales to the metallically glossy, hydraulically-bouncing, retro muscle cars – but this is an intentionally high contrast image. It is shot like a gritty episode of CSI: Miami, and the skin tones reflect this fact. You can either accept that this is the massively oversaturated style that they were going for, or quibble that it is just too far to the extreme, with some characters looking more orange than tanned. Still, I found it to be a fantastic video presentation, more visually opulent than Planet Terror, and much more pleasing to the eye. Machete’s a blast in HD.
On the aural front we get a solid DTS-HD Master Audio track that packs a punch but does not quite deliver as much as I hope for, especially considering I’d seen the movie before with quite a noisy, engulfing cinema presentation. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the track – it just doesn’t feel as refined and thunderous as it should. Still, it is quite a bombastic effort, right from the outset, the fantastic Machete theme played out over the opening credits (the very same tune that was used in the fake trailer several years back) and setting the score straight immediately after the opening pre-credits blast. The music’s done by Rodriguez’s own band, Chingon, so you’ll recognise the style from many of his movies, and it works very effectively here. On the effects front there’s also a fair amount of action, as you would only expect from this kind of exercise in excess. Guns echo out across the surrounds – and there are plenty of them on offer – and we get several completely unnecessary but thoroughly in-tone explosions which randomly ring out across your living room. It’s not a particularly nuanced track, but I didn’t find that a huge problem, although the rears could have done with a tiny bit more fuel during the proceedings. Overall my main issue was to do with the overall potency of the track, it’s just not as punchy and dominating as I felt it should have been. It’s a high 8 when it should have been a 9 or a 10. And you really have to play it loud, not just because it sometimes feels a tad on the suppressed side, but also because the dialogue is definitely in the mumble-driven category. Seagal’s renowned for his muffled speech – it’s plagued almost all of his most recent DTV efforts – but it’s a shock to find the others following suit, from Jeff Fahey’s campaign manager to the lead, Trejo himself. You just shouldn’t have to strain to hear any of them speak, and yet you sometimes do. Do yourselves a favour, turn this one up and risk waking the neighbours. It’s a blunt but largely impressive offering, that falls short of being demo material only due to a couple of reservations.
Where’s the Commentary? Where’s Rodriguez’s famous ‘cooking school’ Documentary on making this movie? Honestly, for a Director who has always provided a plethora of decent extra features on all of his releases, even back in his Dusk Til Dawn days, it is obvious that this is just a first-run release, and that there will definitely be a double dip somewhere down the line. Which is a shame. I know the same happened with Sin City, and also with the Grindhouse movies, but the first releases still tended to have a little more than this. I heard rumours about an Extended Edition, but as it’s quite a long movie in its Theatrical Cut – and certainly pretty gory already – I’m not quite sure what a longer version would have to offer. Still, a double-dip ‘collector’s edition’ seems almost certain just due to the sheer lack of extra material here. Watch this space.
Audience Reaction Track
I’ve never fully understood why they ever bother providing these? I know it may be a little odd watching an episode of Friends without canned laughter playing in the background, but for movies it’s surely not the same case. I know that they are trying to replicate the cinema experience, but are we really saying that this movie can’t be enjoyed with just the sound of you (and your mates) reacting to the jokes, the violence, the satire etc.? This is actually quite an insult of an extra feature and I’d prefer if they stopped doing them altogether.
Not all is lost when it comes to extra features here, as we are given 10 minutes worth of Deleted Scenes, totally 10 new scenes. Now I’m a big fan of Deleted Scenes – I always like the edition of the movie that comes with them – but, that said, I’m almost always disappointed. They are normally useless scene extensions, or just an added line in an otherwise identical scene. Well, not here. Not only are these all completely new scenes, but they actually involve two completely new characters never shown in the final cut, as well as the fate of one character who unsatisfactorily disappears without being ‘dealt with.’ Seriously, these scenes even go some way to explain why Jessica Alba was even more one-dimensional than usual, and why Lindsey Lohan appeared to have much less screentime than the others – here we are shown that originally they had dual roles to play, each, and their ‘twins’ had complete story arcs to themselves. The funny thing about Rodriguez offering up all this great excised material here is that it kind of makes a Director’s Cut redundant, as surely some of these scenes would be the ones that needed to be re-inserted? Still, for a near bare-bones disc, these extra ten minutes are well worth checking out. Highly recommended.
Finally we get a bunch of Trailers to round off the disc, as well as some BD-Live capability which promises an exclusive extra De Niro scene but unfortunately doesn’t deliver (I couldn’t access it, please report back if you can!)
An inspired bit of b-movie filmmaking, Robert Rodriguez’s Machete is a whole lot of fun. Way, way over-the-top and packed with an unprecedented quota of totally gratuitous nudity and gory violence, it is the epitome of ‘does what it says on the tin,’ an unpretentious, action-packed, preposterously silly and sporadically hilarious faux-exploitation flick. It’s a respectful homage of the genre greats. And with an eclectic all-star ensemble cast, boasting everybody from De Niro to Seagal, it manages to be wildly entertaining for the majority of its marginally overlong runtime. Sure, it could have been trimmed to a faster, less politically-stodgy all-out actioner, but – in my opinion – it succeeded where many over-hyped throwback flicks failed last year. If you liked Piranha 3D, or at least enjoyed the adventurous Grindhouse double-bill, then Machete is definitely for you. And for all those with an open mind, suitably moderated expectations, and an ability to laugh at both the numerous decapitations and the unabashed nudity (the naked hot chick with the hidden phone at the beginning sets the tone for the rest of the movie), you will likely find a whole lot of fun to be had in this great little movie.
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