Robert Rodriguez' Machete Reviewed Alex Gomez - PVNN September 13, 2010
Machete 2010, Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis, Written by Robert and Alvaro Rodriguez
I am going to begin this review with a brief history lesson:
"The American Revolutionaries who rose up against King George spoke eloquently about the right of every nation to determine its own destiny. Thomas Jefferson said, in the American Declaration of Independence, 'When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them...'
Unfortunately, after they won the right to determine their own destiny they thought they should determine everyone else's too. The leaders of the newly independent colonies [13 of them] believed that they were preordained to rule all of North America. This was so obvious that they called it 'Manifest Destiny.' According to representative Giles of Maryland, 'We must march from ocean to ocean... It is the destiny of the white race.'" - Joel Andreas, Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can't Kick Militarism, AK Press, 2004, p.3.
During the century that followed the American Revolution, the Native American peoples had their lands ruthlessly seized from them and were driven westward, with those who resisted slaughtered; the rest confined to reservations-which meant that their way of life was utterly destroyed.
By 1848, the United States had seized nearly half of Mexico's territory, which included the following states: California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. In Congress the war against Mexico was justified with speeches about the glory of expanding Anglo-Saxon democracy, and a certain General Zachary ordered scores of U.S. soldiers, who refused to fight against Mexico, executed.
This is why, approaching "Machete's" riveting ending, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Sartana, herself a Mexican-American (Jessica Alba), in choosing to do what's right instead of enforcing the law, declares to the group of migrant workers gathered around Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo) to help him realize his vengeance against the racist Senator Mchlaughlin, of Arizona (Robert De Niro), "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us!" For me, the above facts beg the question: who are the 'illegals?'
This is, however, as political as Rodriguez's exploitation-style film gets (except for the fact that Rodriguez released a fake trailer on May 5, in which Trejo states, "This is Machete with a special Cinco de Mayo message for Arizona," which Rodriguez wrote off as the result of having drunk too much tequila on Cinco de Mayo). It is not meant to be taken seriously, or at face value; it is meant to be laughed at and enjoyed.
It is perfectly obvious to the audience that the gallons of blood shed from the beginning to the end of the movie are phony, that the dismembered limbs that litter the screen are not real. The effect of unreality is bolstered by the disjointed audio and video, which has actors speaking about what's taking place in the scene sometimes only after the scene has actually taken place. There are scratches on the film throughout, meant to make it appear as a vintage movie that could have been made anywhere from 1970 to now.
Machete tells the tale of Mexican ex-federal policeman Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo, in his first leading role). At the beginning of the film we see Machete and a partner disobeying orders from a superior and ramming their car against the headquarters of drug-lord (Stephen Seagal). After Machete takes down several of the drug-lords' thugs, he is double-crossed by a naked woman and beaten by the drug-lord himself, who then drags Machete's wife into the scene and executes her.
Later, we find a renegade Machete roaming the streets of the Texan border with Mexico, looking for work as a day laborer. He meets Luz (Michelle Rodriguez,) a woman who sells tacos and coffee out of a truck, who not only feeds Mexicans arriving over the border but helps them find jobs. Luz has another incarnation - She - who heads a network of immigrants who are ready to defend themselves by violent means from government authorities.
Soon Machete is approached by Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey), a local businessman (or so it would seem) who informs him that a Texas Senator named McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) is expelling immigrants in droves and must be stopped, lest the state collapse for lack of menial workers. He offers Machete $150,000 to assassinate the senator. Machete subsequently donates the money to Luz or She, that she might use it to help more Mexicans crossing the border.
It turns out that Booth is actually working for the Senator, and double-crosses Machete in his attempted assassination. He has a plant shoot Machete and then shoot the Senator in the leg, in order to galvanize the people of Texas in his support, especially after making it seem that an outlaw illegal alien has attempted to murder him.
After Machete is captured by two policemen, he escapes and is eventually taken to a hospital to be treated for his gunshot wound. At the hospital, several employees of Mexican origin rally around him and care for him, and help him escape Booth's henchmen, who come looking for him to kill him.
Agent Sardana (Jessica Alba), who has up to now been harassing Luz about helping illegals cross over, develops an interest in Machete, feels sympathy for his murdered wife, and wants to give him an authentic American I.D., in which Machete is not the slightest bit interested. He recruits his holy brother (Cheech Marin), a priest, to help him take down Booth. He then kidnaps his employer's wife and daughter (Lindsay Lohan).
At the end of the film, Machete recruits the network to help him get revenge on the people who double-crossed him, including Senator McLaughin. This is where the fun really begins. Undoubtedly aware of the effect of using stereotypes of Mexicans and their vehicles, Rodriguez films a riotous scene of Mustangs and Broncos bucking and swerving after the Senator, known to take pleasure in shooting Mexicans, including a pregnant woman, crossing the border.
You can't help but cheer the rebels, including the doctor and the sexy nurses from the hospital Machete was taken to, who now wield guns and shoot against the Senator's kidnappers, a small army of vigilantes led by Lt. Stillman (Don Johnson). 'She' reappears triumphant, after being shot by Stillman earlier in the movie, with an eye patch. Machete wields a machete at least a metre long, and confronts the drug-lord to the death. Lindsay Lohan, in a nun's habit she found at the church where Machete drugged her and kept her, confronts the Senator, aims a gun at him, and begins, "In the name of my father... I forget the rest," and fires.
This movie received a 73% from Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates the votes of critics across the US. One reviewer, with whom I wholeheartedly agree, called the movie "A top-notch B-movie homage." Credit should go to Rodriguez, for hiring actors that few other directors would even consider.
In case you haven't figured it out, Rodriguez and his cast are clearly against the invasive and unjust mass deportations going on in Arizona.Alex Gomez is an award-winning writer. he's written numerous short stories, hundreds of non-fiction articles and two serious novels. Writing makes him happy and nothing can kill him now.