Image Credit: Joaquin AvellanBased on Friday’s returns, Machete, with $3.9 million, has cut off the competition so far, but the full weekend box-office report isn’t in yet. (There could well be a horse race for first place.) When the 1-2-3-4 slots are as closely lumped together as it appears they might be, it can be a challenge to look at the numbers and say what they really mean — assuming, that is, that they mean anything at all. (Sorry, but I’m not here to parse the metaphysics of pop-culture consumerism.) My gut analysis is this: Going the Distance (my favorite of the three films), which took in a scant $2.2 million on Friday, had a softer opening than it should have, and The American (my least favorite), which made $3.8 million, did stronger than I expected — a sure testament to George Clooney’s star power, but also, perhaps, to a genuine audience desire to seek out a quiet-cool, dramatically oblique ’70s-Euro-style thriller. What I want to know is this: How did you feel about these three films? Do you think I was too kind to Going the Distance? Or too hard on The American? (I wanted to like it; I just found it unconvincing on its own terms.)
And I’m especially curious about what people thought of Machete. In a strange way, Robert Rodriguez’s gory-witty badass-illegal-immigrant revenge thriller is two movies bundled in one. If you loved the now-classic, super-sly trailer for it in Grindhouse (“He just f—ed with the wrong Mexican!”), then you may well have gone in seeking out a rush of smart/dumb pulp-movie action that dances on the knife blade of parody. In a sense, though, the whole inside joke of Machete becoming a feature-length, wide-release movie is that a trailer conceived as knowing trash could now be expanded, a touch subversively, into a meat-and-potatoes lunkhead action movie for the same crowd that flocked to The Expendables — in other words, for a lot of people who might never dream of watching a movie like Grindhouse. I hope that we can at least agree on one thing: Danny Trejo (pictured above), as the brooding, monosyllabic slasher-stud Machete, rocks, rules, and does everything else that is awesome.
So who liked which movie? And why? And who disgrees with me about Going the Distance? Did it open soft because it didn’t fill the romantic-comedy bill, or because Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, charming as I think they are, still don’t pack the star power of a George Clooney?