Sunday, September 5, 2010


All right. It seems that at the end of this summer we've had a whole treasure-trove of action movies. Some have been trashy, and some have had quite a few things to say on the state of people through a Megaman style of storytelling. We've run the gamut of action, and as the summer season comes to an end, we're left wondering what else we can do with the action movie scene.

So what better way to go about business than to combine the best of both worlds?

This brings us to today's movie.


Machete (Danny Trejo) is a former cop from Mexico, washed up in Texas after his wife and child are murdered in front of his eyes by the head of a Mexican drug cartel (Steven Seagal). After three years of being in America, he's hired by Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey) to carry out a hit on Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), who has a strong anti-immigration stance in terms of the Mexicans. However, when the hit turns out to be a set-up, Machete uncovers a huge conspiracy. He then joins forces with a priest (Cheech Marin), an immigrations officer (Jessica Alba), and the lady who heads a taco stand and heads an underground network (Michelle Rodriguez) to take the conspiracy down.

Convoluted? Very. The plot is very confused and very implausible. Fortunately, though, it all makes sense in context. Plus, there's no denying that there's a certain kind of 'so bad it's good' quality about it that the movie cheekily accepts as part of itself. To that end, there are some really great action set pieces, too. And when the action scenes come around, they are always in great fun. They're big, they're silly, and yet it seems to acknowledge this just the same, and pulls us along for the ride.

Beware, though; this movie is far from being for everyone, as there is almost no taste to a lot of the things in this movie. I guess it's exemplified best by the fact that when women are naked in this movie there's no fear in showing their breasts in front of the camera-- and yes, this includes nipples. And yet, it's crazy when that's the least audacious thing this movie does. The movie generally is pretty gross, and you have to be able to stomach a lot to be able to sit through it. You thought Kick-Ass was audacious with its 11-year-old superheroine? You haven't seen anything yet.

And yet, underneath all the frivolity and all the action, there's an underlying political statement. Director Robert Rodriguez very obviously has a lot of pent-up anger at the American immigration debate, and he channels it full force in this movie. I think I'll describe a peculiar moment I had towards the beginning: at two points in the movie, McLaughlin's campaign ads are shown to the audience. The first one is honestly one of the most racist things I've ever seen in my life; it shows images of worms and cockroaches, then comparing them to Mexicans crossing the border. His image comes up a few times, and he describes Mexicans as parasites that need to be purged. I will be quite honest with you: I have never felt so purely enraged at something in a movie in my entire life. Not even the twist ending of The Book of Eli angered me as much as that one-minute long segment of the movie. I honestly am not sure if it's because it's not such a far cry from the mud-slinging campaign tactics I've seen a lot of in recent years, because it's one of the most racially insensitive things against Hispanics I've ever seen put to film, or because I'm Hispanic myself (albeit Cuban Hispanic, which is very different from Mexican Hispanic). I actually briefly considered walking out of the theater after that segment, which I didn't even think about when I reviewed New Moon last year. (In fact, the only reason I stayed was because the ad comes in very early in the film's running time; I think it comes in somewhere around the 15-minute mark.) And no, the fact that it was made by a director of Mexican descent didn't mitigate my rage until we saw some ass get kicked later.

But the point is, it really has something to say about the state of immigration laws today, and absolutely none of it is nice. To have such a strong message embedded in an otherwise frivolous film deserves a few accolades, especially when you consider the fact that when the immigration issue comes up, there is no detail spared. A message like this shouldn't have any place in a frivolous action movie born out of a fake trailer. And yet, somehow, the message is even harder to ignore because of it.

So there's how we combine the best of both worlds; make the movie frivolous, yet deal with a serious situation. And Machete does both equally well. It doubles as a political statement as much as it does a seriously fun action movie, and somehow the two halves complement the whole greatly.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

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