Tuesday, 2 November 2010
FILM REVIEW: MACHETE
Danny Trejo is a 66 year old actor with a face for which the adjective 'lived-in' is a gross understatement. Then again, that's what the role of Machete - a former Federale crossed by his superiors, his wife and daughter murdered by a drug baron, and reduced to working as a day labourer on the Texas-Mexico border - calls for. An action hero with a leather face not a leather manbag.
Robert Rodriguez's Machete, originally conceived as a fake trailer for his Grindhouse collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, harks back to the exploitation films which peaked in the 1970s. I'm not overly familiar with the genre, and not just because I was a mere toddler for most of that decade. Gratuitous and graphic violence is not my thing, hence I've never studied up. I can accept it as an aesthetic necessity of the genre, just don't ask me to enjoy it.
Having said that, many in the audience I watched Machete with did enjoy it; there was constant laughter and applause throughout. And to be honest, I didn't hate the film, co-directed by Ethan Maniquis. But it is hard to engage with a film you spend most of the time watching through your fingers.
Still, I appreciated the none-too-subtle politcial edge to the film, that of immigration and border patrol, and the depiction (borrowed from actual advertising) of the racist rhetoric adopted by those in power.
That would be Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), whose campaign for re-election, backed by Mexican drug lord money (the same drug lord, Steven Segal, who ruined Machete's life), is founded on building an electrical fence along the border between the Lone Star state and its southern neighbour. Opposed to this scheme is The Network, headed by a mythical revolutionary lass named She, but who is in fact, taco-seller Luz (a sexy-as-all-hell Michelle Rodriguez).
Machete becomes entwined in all this power play when he is "hired" to assassinate the Senator, which is really only a plot to further enflame hatred towards Mexican immigrants, boosting the Senator's re-election hopes in the process. But Machete's no patsy and goes on the run - with the help of The Network and and a US immigration officer, Jessica Alba - to expose the conspiracy.
If that sounds convoluted, it's really not; Machete is easily followed throughout its two hour run time. And in its favour, it's never dull thanks in no small part to appearances by the likes of Cheech Marin, as Machete's brother, a priest no less, Don Johnson as an overly-eager border patrol officer, and Lindsay Lohan as a drug-addled young lady who has somewhat of a spiritual epiphany (here's hoping life imitates art on that second point).