Opening 4 Nov 2010
With the fatal shooting of Mexicans who are illegally crossing the border into Texas, director Robert Rodriquez begins the action which continues violently and tragically. Ambitious Senator McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro, excellent with a George Bush Texan accent) is up for re-election; he hopes to win votes on an anti-immigrant platform. After all, what self-respecting Texan wants these “cockroaches” arriving in hoards and stealing jobs (except for menial labor such as gardening)? McLaughlin’s manager arranges for him to be shot in the leg during a campaign speech and then puts the blame on a “wetback.” This should win sympathy and provoke fear. The Mexican sharp-shooter is none other than Machete (Danny Trejo), whose weapon of choice is reflected in his name. He is actually an undercover agent who eventually works with an underground group of Mexican resistance fighters led by the mysterious Shé. Also involved in the action is immigration officer Sartana (Jessica Alba). After many struggles which leave bloody bodies along the way, there is a free-for-all climax.
Halfway through the movie, you sort out the bad guys and begin to cheer the good ones. The violence suddenly seems reasonable and necessary and you are free to chuckle over the ease with which Machete plunges his weapon into adversaries. Perhaps the action is sometimes over the top, but the serious messages – a physical wall along the border, the importance of cheap labor for the U.S. economy, and human suffering – are ever present. That alone will appeal to many viewers and guarantee the success of the film. Machete is a superhero. As he says, “Why do I want to be a real person when I’m already a myth?” I would not be surprised if he were soon a plastic action figure, along with figures of Luz wearing an eye patch that covers more skin than her bikini, perhaps a blond nun, as well as a young fighter wearing a headband and looking like he just walked off the stage of Westside Story. The sequel is inevitable. (Becky Tan)