I was so proud of myself thinking I coined an obvious term for this film, but as it turns out, if it’s that easy, it’s probably been done. As a matter of fact, when I looked up Mexpolitation, the first article I found mentioned Rodriguez’s El Mariachi and the Grindhouse trailer for Machete as important points in Mexploitation.
Robert Rodriguez has given us the most ridiculous film of the summer, but unlike any of the films from this year that could be considered ridiculous, Machete knows it is ridiculous. As long as we’re personifying films, let’s also say that Machete also knows that it may be a bit more than stupid summer schlock. Amid the unbelievability of any given sequence in the film, Rodriguez inserts a bit of social commentary in a way that is as over-the-top as the film’s main character.
Danny Trejo plays Machete, a Mexican Federale who likes to do things his own way. The film opens with Machete going after a drug lord named Torrez, played by Steven Seagal, who chooses an accent straight out of a Speedy Gonzalez cartoon. When Machete ignores an order from his commanding officer, Torrez bests Machete, leading to the death of many, including Machete’s wife and child.
Cut to three years later and we find ourselves in a U.S. that is obsessed with illegal immigrants, specifically those from Mexico. We meet Don Johnson’s Lt. Stillman who makes it his life’s work to round up groups at illegal border crossings, killing those that he can. We also meet the political power of Robert De Niro’s Senator McLaughlin, who is all too happy to get his hands dirty as executioner of those caught trying to cross the border.
The film sets up Jessica Alba’s Sartana, an immigration cop with her finger on the pulse of the culture of illegal Mexican immigrant culture, against Michelle Rodriguez’s Luz, proprietor of a taco truck who is obviously more than she appears.
Meanwhile, Machete is wandering around the city, looking for work when he is picked up by Jeff Fahey’s Booth. Booth asks Machete if he wants work and if he has ever killed anybody. Booth offers Machete $150,000 to kill Senator McLaughlin or an unfortunate accident if he doesn’t. Machete agrees and gives the money to Luz, believing her to be a member of the Organization, a group that helps illegals obtain papers.
Of course, you can never trust the people that hire you to publicly kill a high-powered Senator – or at least, I have never been able to. Machete is set up to vilify Mexicans so that more focus will be placed on border control and so that hard liners like McLaughlin will be re-elected.
So that’s the plot. There’s not much more to it. As I said, Rodriguez gives us some social commentary, but buried under the ridiculousness that is the entire film, one can not take the commentary very seriously. It is almost as if Rodriguez is saying that some of the action or viewpoints on illegal immigrants are as unbelievable as the near-invincible Machete.
Worth mentioning are Cheech Marin’s Padr, a Padre who is not afraid to kick some ass; Lindsay Lohan’s April, daughter of Booth who likes to party; and the best Tom Savini cameo ever, where he plays Osiris Ampanpour at 1-800-HIT-MAN.
Machete is a self-aware, comical bloodbath that many people will not enjoy. There’s no need for me to describe weed-wacker deaths, swinging intestines and the running porn music gag that got an audible reaction from the audience, every time.
How much would I pay to see it again?
Out of $10, I would pay $7, but only in a fairly crowded theatre. Otherwise, I would skip it until you can watch it on DVD with a group of people. Movies are best when shared!
Jay (J.C.) Fralick is the co-host of the Wanna Watch a Movie Podcast
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Image: 20th Century Fox