I’ve already posted a news item about Machete concerning the apparently controversial material of white oppression against illegals–or undocumented workers which is the politically correct terminology.
Being a fan of Robert Rodriguez work, I went to plop myself in a cushy red-colored chair after paying 9 bucks. My wife refused to go, as these kinds of movies tend to make her roll her eyes in boredom (I did get her to watch Planet Terror, the guy who kept collecting balls made her laugh). I was not disappointed with the outcome, but at the same time I was not overly impressed.
Machete is low brow pulp, a mock trailer made into a full length movie as a tribute to seventies grindhouse pictures. In some ways I missed the film effects of Planet Terror (which emulated deteriorating film) as I think it had more nostalgic appeal. The movie does stay faithful to the trailer though and I assume shots made for the mock trailer were not filmed again, but inserted in.
I don’t know if I need to go over the premise again in detail but here’s a quick summary: Federale has his wife killed by Mexican drug lord. Federale escapes across border and works as a day laborer. A man offers Machete, the ex-Mexican man of the law, 150,000 to kill a Texas senator running for re-election. Machete accepts but is double-crossed. Now he wants vengeance.
Reviewers and critics have made much of the political pokes in the film at xenophobia and fear of Mexicans in general. Some have even called the film racist because all the bad guys are white and all the good guys are Hispanic. This isn’t quite true as the Boss Villain in the end is Torrez played by Steven Seagal–who is supposed to be Mexican (I think, he speaks some Spanish at least). I, personally, do not see how you can take anything in this film as racist or overtly political. Rodriguez is basically doing a blaxploitation film for Mexicans and it is better to look at this film as a violent satire more than anything else. If you’re a white guy who thinks this film is racist–you need to learn to take a joke. You know how many films in the past have had Mexican villains with white heroes? …I don’t either, but I’m betting quite a few as the Mexican drug lord villain is a common stereotype.
As mentioned in my “News Bite,” I was interested to see Cheech Marin’s role played out as The Padre. Yes, Cheech Marin gets crucified. Whether this was some over-the-top metaphor by Rodriguez or if it was just the most gruesome way to do-in The Padre, I don’t know. I have to say, Cheech Marin nailed to a cross is morbidly funny though.
Another odd moment is Lindsay Lohan who becomes entranced by a nun’s habit. After shooting her father’s killer, she disperses the Mexican battlefield as if she came from heaven. As most Mexicans lean towards Catholicism, they all paid attention and stopped fighting. If anyone is making fun of themselves in this film, it is Lindsay. Even going so far as to be rescued from what looks to be a crackhouse by her Dad who is disappointed in her lack of ambition and self-exploitation.
The acting highlight of the film is Jeff Fahey. Incredibly watchable as a conniving Senator’s aid who only loves money. I would hope someone besides Rodriguez would see his potential, but both Tarantino and Rodriguez have had the clout to allow for once known actors to be put back into circulation–since Hollywood is so obsessed with the here-and-now young stars that we often don’t get to see the aged-to-perfection performances of guys like Fahey or Rutger Hauer (Sin City).
As for Danny Trejo, as Machete, who has been a character actor for quite some time, it was nice to see him in the title role. I would be surprised to see a sequel unless it is a straight-to-DVD release, but he looked like a guy who could take a beating and dish it out. Now we do have to chuckle at seeing Michelle Rodriguez straddling him and Jessica Alba getting sweet on him–he’s a grizzly looking bastard–but then this is a fantasy film. I think we would all like to think after a long, hard day of killing corrupt officials and their thug bodyguards that we would have Michelle or Jessica jump our bones (from a guy’s perspective that is).
Machete is recommended for fans of seventies exploitation films and drive-in theater. All others will probably not be amused. Unless you’re an abused “illegal” who wants to live vicariously through him–Machete does do some interesting landscaping work!