Monday, September 20, 2010

Machete (2010)

Title: Machete (2010)

Directors: Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis

Cast: Danny Trejo, Robert Deniro, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Jeff Fahey, Steven Segal, Don Johnson, Lindsey Lohan, Cheech Marin, Tom Savini


Beneath all its B-Movie madness, behind all its nudity, and its ‘R’ rated gore, behind what some might call its political incorrectness, Machete surprised me with its relevant themes. One look at the previews and you know you are in for over the top action and oneliners galore. So who’s to suspect that a film like this would actually have something important to say?

Many people downplay the film by saying that Machete is simply an excuse to show over the top action pieces and lots and lots of tits and gore, and in a strange way, they are right. But, I refuse to go with the idea that this is a completely stupid movie. On the surface, at first glance, that's what it might look like, that’s what it might sound like. But if you ask me, beneath it all lies a very important truth. The ‘system’ doesn’t work. Certain rules aren’t working, and they need to be re-thought. Of course, I’m talking about immigration laws in the U.S. and this idea that any foreigners need to be eliminated, like a decease, like a plague that’s spreading through out North America. What every happened to the U.S. being a “free country”? The land of the free?

Heavy Metal in Deed!

Machete tells the story of a Mexican cop (named Machete) whose wife is decapitated by a vengeful drug lord. After this happens, Machete vows to hunt down the ones responsible for his wife’s death and execute his revenge. Years pass and Machete goes to live to the U.S. He is trying to get a job, but so far, its proving to be an unfruitful affair. That is until a guy offers Machete 150,000 dollars to kill a U.S. Senator who wants to pass stronger laws that will keep any Mexicans who are trying to illegally cross the border out of the U.S. Machete smells trouble, but he needs the cash, so he takes the job. Little does he know he is being set up! The government arranged the whole thing so they could kill Machete and make it look like Mexicans are trying to kill The Senator, and blame it all on the Mexicans. Problem is that the bad guys fail to kill Machete, and he doesn’t take it very nicely when people try to kill him. So he goes on an all out revenge spree, where he teams up with a bunch of underground rebels to stop the Senator and at the same time avenge the death of his wife.

Senator Deniro

The character of Machete has been on the back of Robert Rodriguez’s head since the days when he was making Desperado (1995). He first met Trejo while shooting that picture and upon taking a look at Trejo’s appearance decided right then and there that Trejo should be making revenge movies, same as Charles Bronson did. So Rodriguez wrote a script for Machete but took his good old time to get it made. The fake trailer in Grindhouse (2007) sparked the publics interest for a film and boom, here we are today! This is Danny Trejo’s first starring role. Before Machete Trejo always played small roles that included killers, bar tenders, criminals, vampires and ex-cons. On Machete Trejo plays an anti-hero. He isn’t squeaky clean, he has no problems about slicing a bad guys stomach open and using his intestines as a means to bungee jump out a window. He was a cop who was done wrong, so now he’s become a vigilante of sorts. Taking the law into his own hands. The thing about having Trejo play Machete is that he simply looks the part. He looks like a Mexican you definitely "don’t want to fuck with". Nobody could have done Machete but Trejo; it’s the role he was born to play! Not bad for a guy who did 11 years in jail and then rehabilitated, turned his life around and became an action star! Not to mention the guy is doing all this while going on 67 years on planet earth. Talk about a late bloomer.

The movie satisfies and achieves all it sets out to do. Just what did it set out to do you might ask? Entertaining the hell out of you is the number one priority and it achieves this 100%. Comic book style action, over the top gore, lots and lots of nudity, funny characters, funny dialog, one liners galore and motorcycles with machine guns attached to them! There are decapitations, dismemberments, crucifixions and never ending shoot outs. Hell, we even have a bonafide sword/machete fight! There is never a moment where the film takes itself seriously; it’s all done very tongue in cheek. The guys and gals behind this picture simply wanted to put a smile on your face. I have to say it achieved that. People in the theater where giggling and down right bursting in laughter in all the right places of the film. We have chicks with eye patches and guns! Which reminds me that Michelle Rodriguez looks like a total bad ass on this picture! She is way sexier looking than Alba any day of the week. By the way, Michelle Rodriguez wearing an eye patch while shooting guns made me think of They Call Her One Eye, a.k.a. Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1974). On that grindhouse classic, we also have a vengeful tough chick who shoots guns and wears an eye patch. But Rodriguez's 'She'  reminded me of that film only visually, because Rodriguez’s character is more of a female Che Guevara, leading the people towards revolution. It is no coincidence that her name in the film is ‘She’, an obvious play of words aluding to the legendary Argentinian revolutionary Antonio 'Che' Guevara. Speaking of films that influenced this one, there was a scene in which Machete is looking at a table filled with weapons, trying to choose the perfect one to achieve his mission which reminded of  John Carpenter's Escape from New York (1981). In that film there's a similar scene with Snake Plissken looking at a table filled with guns. By the way, Escape from New York was one of the films that made Rodriguez want to become a filmmaker, so that connection makes sense.

The cast is one of the films main draws, it brings together an unlikely bunch of actors that you would never in a million years expect to see together, yet here they are working on this completely over the top movie. Did you ever think you’d see Robert Deniro working along side Steven Segal in the same movie? Nope! Yet strangely enough, it all works, because they all fit in their characters skin. Speaking of Steven Segal, he's really let himself go! On this movie he resembled Marlon Brando during his last days, when he got really chunky. And by chunky I mean fat! But he plays his character well, cursing in spanish all the time. Made me laugh. One of the funniest characters in the film was Cheech Marin (a.k.a. Cheech, from the Cheech and Chong Movies) playing Machete’s brother, who is also a priest! Machete asks for his help to kill, and Cheech is like “I’ll see what I can do!” and then proceeds to smoke a joint with Machete! One of the funniest characters in the movie no doubt. In one scene Cheech absolves Machete and then tells him: “Fine, I absolve you! Now get the fuck out!” Ha! Hilarious! That’s the kind of humor you’ll find on this movie.

Catholicism isnt taken too seriously on this movie at all!

The film speaks about the immigration laws, and the whole problem that this is causing in the United States. Mexicans pour into the United States every year by illegally crossing the border, they are employed by factories and companies who have no problem paying them less than minimum wages for their hard labor. They get treated like slaves. The companies do this, and the government knows it. Yet they do nothing about it because these illegal aliens do the hard labor that no one is willing to do, and for so much less! This saves companies millions every year. So if you kick these Mexicans out, who is going to do all these jobs that no one else will take on? I absolutely hate the fact that right now the U.S. is making it practically illegal to be a Latino. They are making it really hard in many ways for Latino’s to simply live in the States. It’s all part of the Xenophobia that’s eating the world. As far as Im concerned we are all citizens of the world. We are all the same, different colors and countries, but we are all humans living in one gigantic spaceship flying across the Universe, why cant we all just get along?

Nifty opening sequence looks something like this

Why is there such a thing as an “illegal alien”? Why is it such a hassle to go from Mexico to U.S.? Why does it cost so much? Why can’t it be simpler? I’ll tell you why, same as in this film: some Americans see Mexicans as a plague. They don’t see them as human beings, they see them as less. It’s sad living in a world like this, but that’s the way it is. That’s why I liked the films theme: if it doesn’t work, fix it! If necessary change; If change doesn’t come then fight; revolt. Which is why there are so many protests going on right now in many parts of the U.S. Machete touches upon a theme that is more important then its b-movie nature. Machete is the embodiment of Latino’s looking to be truly free, fighting for their rights. He is a true Latino anti-hero!  

I really liked the fact that this movie addressed these themes with such conviction. It had no problems whatsoever in voicing the anger that is felt over the whole immigration issue. Jessica Alba out of all people gives the speech that best encapsulates the whole theme of the film: “We didn’t cross the border! The border crossed us!” I mean, I’m not saying that Machete is the most intelligent film ever made, because it isn’t at all. Machete speaks in one-liners, which kind of makes him seem uncapable of speaking complete sentences. Or maybe tough movie guys simply talk that way? Whatever the case, people don’t talk much in this movie; they shoot their guns. That’s the general vernacular spoken on this film. But beneath all that, I’m sure the filmmakers main objective was to vent out the frustrations about the whole immigration thing, cant say I blame them. Kudos to Rodriguez and crew for mixing a fun movie with relevant subject matter; even if it is hidden underneath all the tits and gore.

Rating: 3 out of 5

From Dusk Till Dawn (Dimension Collector's Series)Robert Rodriguez Mexico Trilogy (El Mariachi / Desperado / Once Upon A Time In Mexico)Desperado


Simon said...

Jeff Fahey's eyes are magical.

venoms5 said...

Great review as usual, Fran. I was curious to see this, but after hearing about all the political shenanigans inherent in the film, I might have to pass.

Our current President is a "plague" for lack of a "better" term. I fully understand that racism has been around since most probably there were humans on Earth. We are all racist to an extent whether we like it, or not. However, I don't feel that most Americans think of Mexicans as a plague. I think it boils down to the fact that they want to come here illegally as opposed to doing it the right way.

The ones I know, for the most part, don't even want to be here, they're here just to make money and send a lot of it back to Mexico. Many of them refuse to learn English and have the gall to state that we should learn Spanish(!)

I have several Mexican friends who actually share American sentiments regarding this issue. Some Mexicans are willing to kill to get over here and there's places in Mexico where an American can't go without being slain.

A lot of them hate Americans, yet they want to come here and disrupt the economy with the help of unscrupulous politicians and greedy business owners.

I should probably see the movie first, but I was initially soured on it after reading so much about how this movie is disguised as some kind of political statement.

Franco Macabro said...

@Simon: All I kept thinking when ever Jeff Fahey's face would come up on screen was "Lawnmower Man's a gangster!"

@Venoms5: It is disguised as a political statement. The statement being: change the immigration laws, immigrants are a big part of what makes the country function.

In Machete, the Senator makes a commercial that makes Mexicans look like a plague, during the commercial, you see a bunch of cockroaches on screen when he speaks about Mexicans, and the talk about them spreading through out the country definetly makes it sound like Americans are afraid that one day there will be more Mexicans then Americans which Im sure is the fear of a lot of Americans that live in states like Texas where Immigration laws are getting tighter every day. But you should see the way some americans talk about Mexicans on the net...discussion boards on migration especially.

Im sure a lot of Mexicans would be coming into U.S. legally if it wasnt so expensive or difficult.The process is so long, and so difficult (on both sides of the border) and so many bribes are involved that most Mexicans dont want to go through that hassle. Why not make this process easier somehow, more organized? Im sure more Mexicans would do it legally if it were a cheaper and quicker affair.

My big question about the whole thing is, if illegal aliens are so "illegal" then why the hell is it okay for employers to hire them? Why does no one stop this? It seems to me that would be the solution to the problem, because if Mexicans couldnt find work anywhere, then they wouldnt come. It is obvious that they is a need for Mexican labor in the United States. Since work is assured once they are here, they keep taking the leap.

They know they are going to make more money here then they would in Mexico, so they take the risk. Apparently, the cost to come to the U.S. is too high, so much so that they are willing to take the risk of coming in through the help of a "coyotes" (the person who transports them across)

The main thing is that Mexicans have the idea, because of the way things are right now that the U.S. will do everything they can to make it difficult – perhaps even deadly – to come to the United States. But if you can make it to Phoenix, Los Angeles or anywhere else, they will be pleased to look the other way and let you find work. So they do it. Because thats they way things are.

But you know man, I dont want you to get the wrong idea, Im not a political person at all, I actually hate politics because they divide people as much as religion does.

I simply appreciated the fact that Machete addressed these issues so vividly! I mean, it had the balls to make a movie about this red hot issue.

But besides this political statement the movie makes, the movie is a fun watch non the less man! Though Im sure a lot of people have not gone to see the film simply because it deals with these issues.

You know what is even weirder? That this movie has gotten very little promotion because of its themes! Government in Puerto Rico (where I live) right now is very pro United States, in fact, they want to be the next U.S. state, god knows they are tryign their best. So when the day of this films premiere came and went and it didnt start in theaters, I was I waited.

Then, when the day finally came for the movie to start (this was last thursday) they didnt even promote the film on newspapers or anything! There were posters for all other movies, except for Machete! Im pretty sure it got the shaft because of its political statements.

And Im sure this is why the movie hasnt passed the 50 million mark yet. Good thing it only cost 20 million, or else they movie would have been a box office bomb. Which it wasnt, because it already made its money back, and is still making some cash.

Unknown said...

The Film Connoisseur:

You make some very good points, re: the political commentary of the film. Sure, it's Grindhouse-y type action film but with a brain! And to further drive the point home about how screwed up things are, I read that the state of Texas is threatening to revoke the tax breaks that the film got for filming there probably because of the overtly controversial message of the film!

As for the commercial success of the film, I'm sure it will also make a boatload of money on DVD where tons of people who couldn't be bothered to go see it in theaters will give it a go. I can't wait for all the juicy extras I'm sure Rodriguez will put on it.

Annddd, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your review. I knew you'd dig this film! It is just so much fun and features such a dynamite cast. I'm certainly there with ya as far as Michelle Rodriguez goes. I also thought that she was way sexier than Jessica Alba in the film.

George Beremov [Nebular] said...

What a great review, Fran! Very detailed and entertaining to read. I liked it a lot, though I expected a lot more from the action sequences.

Franco Macabro said...

@J.D.: Wow, those news just goes to show how messed up everything is, what ever happened to freedom of speech? I guess it's only valid if you speak what they want you to speak.

Agree about Michelle Rodriguez, every time I saw her I got this vibe like she could have a whole movie devoted to her alone! Kind of the same way they could have made a whole movie based on JOhnny Depp's character in Once Upon a Time In Mexico.

@Nebular: Thanks!

HorrO said...

Too much political talk! This was just one of those movies to entertain you. You can't take it seriously. Just like Piranha 3D. If you take that movie seriously, you aren't going to have a good time watching it. I liked all the machete action. There were a lot of great one liners. It did have an interesting cast. I'm all in on Machete Kills, and Machete Kills Again! Viva Machete!

Franco Macabro said...

I know what you mean HOrro, but a movie that has political themes in it will spawn political talk.

But this movie more than anything was a fun ride! Political stuff aside, I was laughing all the way through! The dialog was a laugh riot, I enjoyed the conversation that Jessica Alba has with Michelle Rodriguez on the Taco Stand...hilarious.

Plus anything that Cheech Marin would say cracked me up. "May the lord have mercy upon yourself, cause I wont!"

I read somewhere that the popular "Machete dont text" line comes from real life, when Danny Trejo kept bugging Rodriguez to make the film he would constantly call him on the cell phone, and Rodriguez asked him "why dont you text instead of calling me all the time?" and Trejo's answer was the now popular line.

venoms5 said...

There are many Hispanics who live and reside here who got here legally and through the proper channels. The difficulties doesn't make it right that thousands of others should use underhanded methods to infiltrate the country.

I don't think any laws need to be changed. If you are illegal, you shouldn't be allowed in without doing it the right and proper way. There are a number of Hispanics who believe that as well. We can't go over there if we wanted to.

Personally, more states need to follow suit with Arizona. Obama intervening means nothing. He simply wants their votes since so far he's done far more damage in his two years then the ever escalating immigration problems.

The fees are under a grand if I remember right. Around $700 I think. They also have to take a test. They get a temporary visa and if they aren't convicted of any crimes within a few years, they get their citizenship.

Illegal immigration is one of the most crippling problems in America right now. Companies hiring them is illegal and they know this going in. I once worked for a distribution center for a grocery chain and they had a plethora of illegals working there.

Eventually, immigration got wind and removed (at the time) 4 illegals from the company and charged them a $10,000 fine a piece.

But in cases like this, the company is just as much to blame. Instead of hiring those who have lived here all their lives, they hire those who used stealth to get here and pay them far less in the process and look what the company saves on benefits!

Meanwhile, said Americans either end up flipping burgers, or end up on the unemployment line--yet another wave causing a crippling effect in America right now.

Not only is the problem of illegal immigration a massive irritant, but you also have many of these illegals being gangsters who come over here to murder and sell drugs like we don't have enough problems of our own to deal with already.

Again, I haven't seen the movie yet, but keep reading that politics are heavy handed in this. Hell, just one look at one of the "trailers" for the movie confirms this. I may still see it, but not sure if I'll like it if this kind of issue is constantly thrust in my face while watching. It's bad enough I deal with it on a daily basis on the job without having to see it up on the screen.

Franco Macabro said...

I hear ya Venom, thats what Im talking about, while on the one hand a group hates the fact that Mexicans come into the U.S. illegally, the other half is the one that hires them for mowing the lawn and cleaning their homes. Or for factory work.

I personally know about this because I lived in North Carolina for a year. I saw first hand illegal aliens working in a meat packing factory. The factory had no problem in hiring them! Ten at a time. For a closer look at how that goes down, check out a film called Fast Food Nation, which goes in depth into what all these Mexicans go through when they get hired by these factories. It aint pretty.

I understand that what they do is illegal. They dont have the proper documentation. They are breaking the laws, true. I guess its a desperate move on their part. They want to leave their country and try out for the American Dream, which they hope will be something better. Some make it, and better themselves. But most of them dont.

I saw the conditions in which some of these Mexicans lived in North Carolina and wondered if what they left behind in Mexico was better or worse then this. Im guessing worse, if they went through all the trouble.

I guess its just a desperate move to try and improve their lives, but one has to wonder if improvement is really what awaits them once they get here. Most of the time they live really piss poor in cheap trailers, not having enough money to live because they get paid so little for their work.

I think that Mexico and U.S. needs to work something out to fix this problem, make it more viable for them to come in if thats what they want to, but I see the problem that the U.S. has when more then 3 million Mexicans try to migrate legally...its a huge influx of people every year.

I guess the main concern with Americans is their jobs, cause millions of Mexicans working in the U.S. means millions of Americans who arent working...but I guess thats in the hands of the employers. ANd the government to do something about it.

The whole thing is just a sad affair, I wish there was some sort of solution to the whole thing, but I dont see it any time soon since this issue is so polarizing!

Maybe you wont like the movie, because this is the films main theme, but then again you just might enjoy it man! Its great fun no matter what themes it plays with.

venoms5 said...

Dude, you were in North Carolina?!? That's where I've lived for years now!

I know what you mean about the way Mexicans live, but they prefer that way according to some I've talked to about this. Having a two bedroom trailer with 15 people living in it. They get to send more money back home that way. And one of them drives whether he has a license or not.

I will probably see the movie it stays in theaters long enough. It seems to have made a decent amount so far. More than I thought it would initially.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah man, I lived in North Carolina for about a year, I lived in Greenville, and worked in a factory called Cooper Crouse Hinds. It was kind of a dreary place, in the middle of nowhere, and I kind of felt the shaft from some people because they all treated me as if I was a Mexican (Im Puerto Rican) the racism thing made me want to come back to Puerto Rico. But I had good times there, and almost got married to an American Babe.

I noticed there was a lot of racism between blacks and whites as well. It shocked me to find out that I couldnt go to the roller skating ring on certain days because that day was "black only night" so my friends didnt want to go.

I hate racism!

But back to Machete, c
onsidering the movie cost 20 million, and so far its made almost 25 million, well, I guess we might not be seeing Machete Kills or Machete Kills Again...sadly!

Or who knows, maybe they will be direct to dvd sequels....yeah, that sounds like it might happen.

venoms5 said...

Yes, there's racism everywhere in the United States. It seems the further South you go, it becomes more profound unless things have changed the last decade.

I have some Puerto Rican friends (haven't seen them in years now) and they seemed to have distaste for Mexicans themselves and some Spanish, people, too.

Many people thought Obama coming into office was going to help dispel lots of racial issues, but he has perpetuated them instead. Oh, well.

I was kind of shocked that MACHETE even made that much, actually. Hell, PIRANHA 3D didn't do so well, either and they're talking sequel for that one already. Straight to DVD seems most likely, but you never know.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, racism is everywhere, even here in Puerto Rico. Though here lately its more of a rich vs. poor type of deal, which is another kind of racism.

Straight to DVD or theatrical, either way Id love to see Machete Kills or Machete Kills Again. Thoe titles remind me of the title for that straight to dvd sequel to DARKMAN, DIE DARKMAN DIE!

Unknown said...

Actually a straight to DVD sequel would be rather fitting considering that Rodriguez is obviously paying tribute to a certain degree to those wonderfully cheesy Cannon Films from the 1980s that featured Chuck Norris or Michael Dudikoff.

HorrO said...

That is a funny story. I could imagine Robert, and Danny having that conversation. Everyone loved that line. It was all over Twitter. Danny is suppose to be at a convention I am going to in a few weeks. I look forward to meeting him, and seeing how he is in real life.

Franco Macabro said...

@J.D.: I agree, Machete would fit rather well as a straight to DVD release! That way, they could make them with smaller budgets, and earn more money. Im pretty sure that this is the plan they are going to go with, I mean Im almost positive.

@Horro: Lucky, lucky, lucky you! Make sure to post some pics so we can get a look at them!


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