WARNING: The following article contains significant plot-spoilers for "Machete;" and what would be called plot-spoilers for The Expendables if The Expendables featured anything resembling a plot.
"The best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie."
Of course, Godard was probably referring to the way he, Francois Truffaut and other revolutionary filmmakers of the French New Wave transitioned from film journalists for Cahiers du Cinema to filmmakers in their own right, but either way, he was right.
I'd offer that the second best way to criticize a movie is to find another movie and point it out: Want to see just how good Sin City was? Just look at how bad The Spirit was. "Whaddaya mean, The Fantastic Four sucked!? What did you want it to be!?" See: The Incredibles.
The downside to this is that rarely, if ever, do movies that (intentionally or not) "answer" one another hit theaters in the same time period. And yet, here now we have such an occurrence (at least in the U.S.); with Robert Rodriguez Machete and Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables - both gussied-up B-movies packed with dubious "stars" pitching a return to old-school R-rated action - hitting screens within weeks of each other.
And, well... folks, I'd been itching to take a more-analytical look into just why I detested the bafflingly-popular "Expendables" as much as I did anyway. With the far superior Machete on hand as well, I figured it'd be more fun to follow the spirit of Jean-Luc's dictum and lay them side-by-side to show how - at least in the opinion of your humble correspondent - one film can stride and another can stumble while going down the same road.
The Expendables: A team of mercenaries of indistinct origin are asked to fight a dictator. They say no, but then say yes because one of them met a girl. One of them quits and joins the bad guys, immediately fights his ex-friends and dies. Jason Statham briefly takes a time-out for a short, unrelated Crank sequel where he beats up a guy who hit his ex-girlfriend. There are two bad guys who argue and fight each other, but the henchmen fight the good guys anyway just because. Following many shootouts, the good guys sit around and have a party. The one guy who went bad and died is alive again, somehow. Essentially, it's 90 minutes of people you don't care about in a story not worth following.
Machete: Ex-Federale turned illegal-immigrant day laborer, supposedly hired to kill a racist Senator, is betrayed and left for dead. He joins with an underground immigrant-rights network to get revenge, and uncovers a far-reaching political conspiracy. Silly? Yes, but interestingly laid out and makes sense in context.