Starring: Danny Trejo (The Expendables, Predators), Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, Fast & Furious), Jessica Alba (Little Fockers, The Eye), Robert De Niro (Stone, Meet the Parents), Lindsay Lohan (Ugly Betty) and Cheech Marin (The Perfect Game, Cheech & Chong)
What do you get when you mix a man bent on revenge, illegal immigrants, drugs and corrupt senators with several big celebrities? Not the latest Hollywood scandal, but the new Robert Rodriguez produced and written action movie, ‘Machete.’ Hoping to end the summer season with a bang, both literally and monetarily, and to rebound from his earlier forgotten summer film ‘Predators,’ Rodriguez again gets himself noticed by focusing on the story of main character Machete. Expanded from a fake trailer set between the two ‘Grindhouse’ movies, which were released in 2007 as a double feature and a tribute to the B movie and exploitation styles of the 1970s, Rodriguez once again brilliantly brings comedic undertones to an otherwise serious subject.
Much like ‘Planet Terror,’ Rodriguez’s accompaniment to Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Death Proof’ in ‘Grindhouse,’ the director proved he understood what it takes to perfectly replicate the experience of viewing exploitation films in a grindhouse theater. ‘Machete’ touches on the serious subject of illegal immigration in the United States, particularly those who sneak across the Mexican border. Machete (played by Danny Trejo), a former Mexican Federale who entered the U.S. illegally after his wife was killed by a druglord, Torrez (portrayed by Steven Seagal), is working as a day laborer in Texas. He’s offered $150,000 by businessman Michael Booth (played by Jeff Fahey) to kill Senator John McLaughlin (portrayed by Robert De Niro), who is up for re-election and is building his platform on tightening the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
But Booth is betrayed by Booth, as the assignation attempt was set up to garner more support for McLaughlin’s campaign. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Sartana (played by Jessica Alba) is sent to capture Machete for the murder attempt, but as she gets to know him, Sartana takes an interest in Machete. Sartana eventually comes to like, and want to help, Machete.
Discussing such a serious subject as illegal immigration in America is rare in action movies, as they often instead more on stunts to carry the story. But ‘Machete’ flips people’s preconceived notions of the subject, as they start to feel Machete’s pain of losing his family. The movie also doesn’t preach one side or the other, and instead shows Machete’s need for revenge. The plot’s overall subtle humor will also tone down people’s anger over the issue.
While the movie is Trejo’s first major lead role, and deserves credit for affectingly portraying the need for revenge, De Niro was definitely the stand-out star of the film. While McLaughlin is more of a supporting character, and doesn’t have as much screen time as Trejo and lead actress Alba, ‘Machete’ is definitely a good change for De Niro. Remembered most for his roles in crime dramas, including ‘Goodfellas,’ ‘The Godfather Part II’ and ‘The Untouchables,’ as well as the comedy series ‘Meet the Parents,’ the cross between a B movie and exploitation film in ‘Machete’ finally allowed him to mix being in a position of power with being funny.
While Rodriguez deserves credit for writing a comprehensive, funny script, Mexicans may have an issue with the way they are portrayed in ‘Machete.’ They are all shown in the same stereotypical way of only being able to get into the U.S. illegally, and having to rely on day laboring to make money. But Rodriguez broke the Hollywood mold of featuring a mainly-white cast by including several actors of Hispanic descent, including Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and Cheech Marin. Anyone who likes a diversified cast and a unique genre and script will like ‘Machete.’
Written by: Karen Benardello