Machete, a superhero for the immigration age
The release of Machete could not have been more perfectly timed. With the immigration debate reigning as media’s hot button de jour, a film that makes a bold political statement with stellar filmmaking and performances is sure to stir up some controversy.
The film, written and directed by the talented Robert Rodriguez, is a full-length story based on the fake trailer in Grindhouse. Danny Trejo stars as the supreme bad ass, Machete. A former Federale, Machete is now an illegal immigrant in Texas working as a day laborer when he is approached by smooth talking businessman Booth, played by Jeff Fahey, with an offer he can’t refuse. Booth offers him $100,000 to kill a racist senator, John McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro), who not only deports immigrants, but executes them with his vigilante border patrol crew. Soon, Machete learns that Booth tricked him and that the entire thing was part of a plot to re-elect McLaughlin and further his anti-immigrant rhetoric by making him seem like a hero who survived an attack from a violent Mexican.
But Machete won’t stand for that and he teams up with everyone from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent (Jessica Alba) to a priest who can wield a shot gun (Cheech Marin) to She (Michelle Rodriguez), the leader of The Network, a group that helps immigrants in beginning their new life, in an effort to expose Booth and McLaughlin.
As someone who regularly sees the hateful comments made by anti-immigration racists, the film was like a glass of water in the middle of the Sahara.
The B-movie style is over-the-top, the tone is satirical and the message is clear. Machete is an all around amazing film.
DeNiro, brilliant as always, perfectly captures the flat-out ignorant racist fervor adopted by many infamous politicians. He’s got the fake cowboy look and creepy giggle of George W. Bush, the catch-phrase sound bites of Sarah Palin and the ignorant statements of Jan Brewer all rolled into one.
Fahey is excellent as the even-worse villain who orchestrates the entire plot. From his callousness in killing people to his “improper thoughts” about his daughter (Lindsay Lohan as a methed-out rich girl) Booth is pure evil. As everything unfolds and Machete and his team grow strong, you can’t wait for Booth to finally get what’s coming to him.
The film also features two strong female leads in Alba and Rodriguez. Both are smart and tough and drive the plot forward, as opposed to just being eye candy. Rodriguez, in particular, is like the female embodiment of Machete in her powerful performance as She. Not many people can still be great actors while wearing an eye patch and skin tight leather pants.
If you’ve paid any attention to the news and watched the debate over immigration reach a boiling point, Machete will speak to you. The empowering story will make you wish it was more than just a film, and the exploitation style will keep you amused and entertained.