Movie Review: Machete
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis
20th Century Fox
1 hour, 45 minutes
After seeing the movie “Machete,” I thought this could quite possibly be the worst film ever or it could be one of those timely political satires perhaps on the verge of pure genius.
For what its worth and despite the movie’s hilarious over the top blood bath scenes and outlandish one-liners, the theme of immigrant rights is dead on. Literally.
Given the anti-immigrant hysteria being stirred up by real life right-wing talk show hosts like Glenn Beck or backward state lawmakers like Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, “Machete” reveals just how bad comprehensive immigration reform is needed.
And interestingly enough notable racists, in my opinion, are actually calling the film “racist.” The one thing for sure is Co-Directors Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis got the anti-worker and anti-immigrant hacks on the defense because it openly calls them out for their controversial and racially insensitive positions.
The movie begins with a barbarian looking Mexican federal agent dubbed “Machete” (Danny Trejo) who attempts to take out a drug lord south of the border using his weapon of choice, yes, a machete.
Using his sugar cane sword, Machete the man is a beast slaying machine and decapitates three drug-cartel goons in the opening scene. But he’s betrayed by his own men and the Mexican drug lord played by actor Steven Segal, who is absolutely a riot by the way, winds up trapping Machete and killing his wife.
Machete winds up in Texas as a day laborer looking for work when he is hired by the aide of a corrupt senator to assassinate the politician. Sen. John McLaughin, played by Robert De Niro, is a corrupt senator that has made “illegal immigration” the cornerstone of his re-election campaign and supports an electrified fence on the border. He calls immigrants “parasites” and “terrorists” and advocates an all out war on them. The aide uses Machete’s assassination attempt to boost his image.
The plot thickens when Machete finds out he’s a patsy to stir up anti-Mexican sentiment.
Machete joins forces with an underground band of immigrant rights forces called “The Network,” which helps place undocumented workers with jobs and settling in.
The movie shows how immigrant gardeners, dishwashers, pushcart peddlers and allies unite to fight against the militiamen and the senator’s tirade against them.
At the film’s beginning the senator is seen with a group of all white militiamen along the border hunting and killing immigrants trying to cross, including a pregnant woman.
The film has an all-star supporting cast including Jessica Alba as a U.S. immigration customs agent, Don Johnson as the anti-immigrant militia leader, Cheech Marin as Machete’s gun toting brother who happens to be a priest and Lindsay Lohan.
Alba’s character at first is a hard line immigration enforcement agent she ends up joining Machete and at one point shouts, “We didn’t cross the border. The border crossed us.”
Actress Michelle Rodriguez plays “Shé,” a revolutionary disguised as a taco stand cook who heads up “The Network,” and leads an armed insurrection against the border vigilantes.
The film was originally a fake trailer before the showing of “Grindhouse,” a 2007 movie co-directed by Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Since then it’s received a lot of attention and went viral online spawning the film’s eventual production.
Speaking to Time during a recent interview about the electrified fence as portrayed in the film and immigration reform, actor Danny Trejo said he doesn’t think the movie is about illegal immigration.
“It’s not about the guy sneaking across the border to come work as a day laborer to support his family,” he said. “It’s about the corruption that goes on that side of the border and the corruption that goes on this side of the border. The only ones who really want a wall are the drug cartels, simply because that will drive the price of drugs way up on this side.”
Trejo added, “Every time somebody in politics wants a platform to stand on, they immediately shoot at immigration. But the reality is that nobody has done anything about it.”
The film, although a spoof, does a good job of connecting the exploitation of undocumented workers due to a broken U.S. immigration system and companies including Mexican drug cartels that only see immigrants as way to increase their profits. It also depicts the reality of right-wing forces including politicians that use immigration to divide communities and spread fear mongering especially along the border in a way that criminalizes working people.
Machete is not recommended for the squeamish or the humorless, but its satirical message is on point and very entertaining both for Rodriguez fans and immigrant rights supporters. It’s only fitting that Hollywood side with the good guys and immigrants in Machete, to no surprise, are just that.