Machete: Stepping Into the Larger World of Rodriguez

I saw Machete on opening night – and I loved it, just as I expected I would.  There’s an extra layer of fun in this movie, however, that only Rodriguez fans will enjoy; the people, music, and even props that make it, unmistakably, a Rodriguez film.  You can be in on the joke, too!  All it takes is a little movie-watching.

See, Robert Rodriguez – one of the writers and directors on Machete – started out as a small, indie filmmaker.   To save money, he became adept at all stages of production: editing, sound, etc.  Some of the actors he employed weren’t actors by profession; they were real-life friends.

As time went on and his budgets and reputation grew larger, his films retained that small-town feeling.  When you catch one of Rodriguez’ actors on screen, it’s like seeing an old friend.  A prime example of this is Danny Trejo – before he was Machete, he had smaller roles in several Rodriguez films (okay, often he was still named Machete).

By catching up on the Rodriguez catalog, you’ll see familiar faces at every turn in Machete (and you’ll have watched some damn fine films, as well).  Here are a few essentials to start you off:

Planet Terror

This is a must for every Machete fan, not the least because it has the original Machete trailer.  The grind house feel and campy violence will give you a good idea of what to expect from Machete.  And a good amount of Rodriguez’ regulars were added in this film, including his real-life twin nieces, his doctor, and a good friend.

Sin City

This might well have been the first Rodriguez film for many in the Comic-Con set.  It broke new ground, both in style and in adapting darker graphic novels, and, of course, the green screen saved a lot of money as well.  It features a huge and talented cast; Jessica Alba makes an appearance in this one, as the most clothed stripper you will ever see.  Keep an eye out for Devon Aoki.  Side note: Elijah Wood could theoretically be considered one of Rodriguez’ people, as he also appeared in The Faculty.  Bruce Willis has been in more than one Rodriguez film, as well.

From Dusk Till Dawn

This is not Rodriguez’ first film, but you could say a lot of his “world” begins here.  Danny Trejo is his bad-ass self, and so are Tom Savini and Cheech Marin.  We see the introduction of the dark but funny horror, and we get the flavor of the Southwest.  And the last shot of the movie is one of my favorites of any film, ever.

Four Rooms

You could consider this the first professional association between Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino; the two have collaborated in some way on several films together, including Grind House, Sin City and From Dusk Till Dawn.  This little-known film is actually four vignettes, each one from a different director.  And I can say with total honesty that Rodriguez’ segment is my absolute favorite and freaking hilarious.  It features two of his strengths, working with children and Antonio Banderas, which can also be found in…

Spy Kids

Yes, it’s a film suitable for children, but that doesn’t mean it’s not surprisingly entertaining for adults.  It’s also the first appearance, to my knowledge, of Danny Trejo as Machete!  A few other familiar faces might pop up in Machete as well, if you’re looking closely.

There are several other Rodriguez films out there, and honestly I’d probably recommend almost every one of them.  And then once you get going, to round out your Rodriguez experience, you’ll probably wind up watching Death Proof and Kill Bill, and that will send you into the world of Quentin Tarantino… but that’s another post, for another day.

Have you seen Machete yet?  Can you recommend other writers or directors who have their own “universe,” complete with in-jokes?

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