INTERN’S VIEW: “Macheté” Is Insanely Over The Top, Perfect For Guys
by Philip Benais
Machete: Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis; Starring Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Robert DeNiro, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan, Steven Seagal, Jeff Fahey, Daryl Sabara, Tom Sivini and Shea Wigham.
Machete; Ex Federale, ladies man and ass kicker extraordinaire. For many of us we got our first glimpse of Machete in the 2007 Grindhouse double feature as a fake advertisement for a 70’s style Mexploitation film starring Danny Trejo (who needs more work like this) and even featuring the likes of Cheech Marin as a shotgun toting one-liner spewing priest. Needless to say, we all wanted more of it, and come 2010 we have the full length feature film of Machete. How does it hold up? Well, it’s everything you’d come to expect of a film like this; insanely over the top violence, harsh language, nudity galore. The kind of film that will always have people objecting to it and that ‘guys night outs’ were made for…but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t without its problems.
The main problem with this movie in fact is not how ridiculous or insensitive it is but how serious it can get. In a film where a man’s entrails are used as a rope and they justify Robert DeNiro in a migrant worker outfit, I’m not exactly looking for social commentary on the illegal immigration issue. When I see an exploitation film, I expect nonsensical twist after nonsensical twist, I don’t expect boring and out of place immigration drama. These kinds of films are trash, albeit entertaining trash and yet Machete tries to polish the proverbial turd and make it a legitimate film. Isn’t the whole point of exploitation to be BAD? No one saw the preview for Machete in 2007 and thought it would be a critical success, we all expected dumb trashy entertainment that’s delightfully tongue in cheek. Take the under appreciated Black Dynamite for example; it was a perfect throwback to blaxploitation films because it didn’t take anything seriously. It had Richard Nixon fighting the hero with nunchucks for crying out loud and that’s the kind of thing these movies need, the ability to not only laugh at themselves but make the audience keel over laughing as well. There are plenty of absurd moments in Machete and when it works it works very well, but the pacing is off, so it feels a little too bipolar for it’s own good. Is it a Z Grade Exploitation film or a social commentary on anti immigration sentiments? The movie itself can’t make up it’s mind and it suffers for it.
The story, as I mentioned, centers around ex federale Machete, after having been betrayed by his own team and forced to watch his family killed in a hilarious turn by Steven Seagal as the drug lord Torrez. The Seagal performance in this film is laughably bad, in the way that Plan 9 From Outer Space was. It fails on so many levels, yet still manages to work in a strange idiosyncratic way. Picking up sometime after the betrayal we see Machete has become an illegal immigrant day laborer in Texas. At the same time Senator John McLoughlin (Robert DeNiro) a conservative senator in the vein of Pat Buchanan, is running for office again focusing on a strong anti-immigration stance. Machete is approached by Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey), a ruthless businessman, who offers him a large sum of money to assassinate the senator. Ultimately he’s double crossed and goes on a campaign of revenge against Booth, McLoughlin and the head of a minutemen style vigilante group which has ties to the senator.
I might as well get this out of the way now; if you’re against illegal immigration or open borders in general, DO NOT see this movie. The way the movie browbeats you with it’s heavy handed political message even made an open border advocate like myself cringe. Going back to Black Dynamite for a minute, when the political stereotypes of that time were used in that movie, they were not one of the focuses of the movie like in Machete. As much as it pains me to put politics aside, I don’t wanna hear ANYTHING about that sort of stuff when I watch this type of movie. We go to these types of movies to escape from reality, not be further immersed in it, and frankly Robert DeNiro as a conservative was PAINFUL to watch; he was one step away from shouting ‘THEY TOOK YER JOBS!’ and calling anyone who disagrees a terrorist.
I know it seems like I really didn’t like this movie but for everything that didn’t work there were just as many things that did; Danny Trejo was kickass as Machete, creating what Robert Rodriguez calls ‘a Mexican Charles Bronson,’ the violence was gory and very inventive and you get to see several beautiful women in various states of nudity, including Jessica Alba. Yeah, it’s a primitive reptilian brain sort of entertainment but sometimes that’s what people want to see. In the credits Robert Rodriguez teases about the possibility of Machete sequels. Even with the flaws of the first in the series, I’d be willing to see more of Machete. Overall, you could do a lot worse for $8.50 a ticket. Machete; stupid, nonsensical and yet STILL too serious for its own good.
Rating: ***1/2 / *****
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Philip Benais is our newest Intern, a 16-year old student at Big Picture High School in SeaTac.
Read more of his work here.]