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NECA Reel Toys
by yo go re

Back when he was making grimy niche movies like El Mariachi and Desperado, Robert Rodriguez signed a contract that said he retained the merchandising rights to his films. The studios didn't care - after all, who would want toys from The Faculty? But then he turned out Spy Kids, a wildly toyetic film, and he held all the rights. Clever! That's the benefit of planning ahead.

Yesterday he was a decent man living a decent life. Now he is a brutal savage who must slaughter to stay alive.

The film Machete has its origins in one of the fake trailers included in the Rodriguez/Tarantino vanity project Grindhouse. The original plan called for the entire movie to be a special feature on the Planet Terror DVD, but obviously Rodriguez realized that shooting a full-length film and not releasing it in theatres was a bit ridiculous. The character Machete has his origins even earlier, though: Isador "Machete" Cortez was a recurring character in all three Spy Kids movies.

This figure has been in the works for a long time. It was first shown at Toy Fair alongside the Trick 'r Treat and Beetlejuice figures, which must have been, what, 2008? The figure was finally released last year alongside the 2009 Friday the 13th remake Jason Voorhees, but sold through fast, so you might never have seen him on the shelves.

The figure has been under way for so long, he's actually based on that first teaser trailer, rather than the actual film. Specifically, a fake poster designed to go along with that fake trailer - even the pose is the same. He's wearing dark pants, simple boots, and a fancy vest with six throwing knives sculpted in place on the front. He has fingerless white gloves, and a separate pvc necklace (which was broken on my figure, but was easy enough to fix with a drop of glue).

The facial sculpt is superb. Danny Trejo has a... distinctive look about him, and while the toy doesn't quite reach Edward James Olmos levels of texture on the skin, there's no mistaking who this is meant to be, even at a glance. Most of his hair is a sculpted piece of the head, but there are a few extra strands glued in place to make him look more natural.

The figure's paint is outstanding, as well. It's not just that the small details on his vest are perfect, or that the silver knives have zero slop, or even that there's a subtle hint of stubble on his chin. No, what's really impressive, so much so that Trejo himself has commented on it, is that they've re-created all his tattoos perfectly. If you look at a picture of the man, you'll see the same ink in the same places - the factory applied everything well, and they even mixed the appropriate blue-grey shade that old tats fade to. That's not something easy to do on a figure at this pricepoint, but they got it right.

Machete's accessories are precisely what you'd expect them to be: sledgehammers. Wait, no, machetes! Machetes. Sorry, we always make that mistake. The two weapons are different, so we're not getting two copies of the same thing, and can be held in either hand. They're painted to look bloody, but the effect doesn't quite work - it still looks like paint.

If there's one flaw with the figure, though, it's his pose. Like we said, he's designed to look like the movie poster shown in the behind-the-scenes book: that means he's all hunched over, and doesn't have enough artciulation to stand upright. When he was shown at Toy Fair years ago, he had a car-roof-top display base that would have given him a better angle, but that didn't make it to production. His neck, wrists, torso and ankles are balljoints, while the shoulders are swivel/hinge joints. You'll have to fiddle with him for a while before you can find a pose that keeps him from falling forward.

Before becoming a movie bad guy, Danny Trejo was a real-life bad guy. He's cleaned up his act now, and is one of film's most reliable badasses. He's not the only actor to ever portray the same character in more than one franchise, but he's certainly the only one to start a character in a PG adventure for kids and end up in a hard R slaughterfest. Machete would have been cooler if he came with the base they originally designed for him, but even without it, he's yet another fun movie toy from NECA.

-- 03/12/11

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