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"A Gringo's Worst Nightmare"

Written by Steven Walker

I really didn’t think this would work.  A real movie based on a fake trailer that was a Mexican parody of 70s blacksploitation films.  Plus the fact that I really don’t like Robert Rodriguez as a director.  His willingness to shell out aggressively cheap, awful kids movies that even kids will tell you are awful make him hard to respect.  When you have Pixar proving once every year that genuinely intelligent kid’s fare can clean up at the box office and have cultural relevance, Rodriguez really has no excuse.  Even his good movies like Desperado and Sin City have major problems and kind of fall apart at the end.  My favorite film of his is Planet Terror, which is so tongue-in-cheek that it’s hard to take seriously.

Much to my surprise, Machete may have stolen that top spot from Planet Terror.  I thought this movie was tremendous fun.  I was a little resistant at first, but once Machete uses a man’s intestine as rope to jump between floors of a building while the man is still alive, I knew I should just let go and roll with it.

I was also surprised that there is some actual political satire at work here.  Living in Texas, immigration is certainly a different kind of issue here than it is in, say, Vermont.  We are aware of it every day, and you always suspect that half the people you pass at lunch would make like Iron Maiden and run to the hills if you asked for their papers.  Robert De Niro’s character advocates a final solution for illegals that is borderline Third Reich, but I know for a fact that this extreme opinion is alive and well in some corners of the Big Hat State.  I can’t tell if Rodriguez is just mocking these people or trying to raise awareness, but the presence of subtext of any kind is always welcome.

Speaking of Texas, it’s nice to see a movie shot in Austin that is proud of the fact that it shot in Austin.  Watching Jessica Alba give an inspirational speech in front of the Frost Tower definitely fuels my civil pride.

I also love that Rodriguez fully embraces the exploitation roots his movie has. I hate the absurd quadruple standard American culture has developed over sex vs. violence.  You can kill people in demented, horrible ways…but heaven forbid you have nudity or sex.  Thankfully Rodriguez remembers that the two go hand in hand and gleefully serves up decent amounts of skin to go with the blood.  Machete making a sex tape in a pool with Alicia Marek and Lindsay Lohan, who are playing mother and daughter, is the kind of hilarious we don’t see often enough.

Sadly, Rodriguez proves he still doesn’t know how to construct a finale.  The movie kind of degenerates into a long series of shots of people shooting guns in slow motion.  And as sexy as Michelle Rodriguez is in a leather bikini and an eye-patch…it is ludicrous that she could get shot in the eye at point-blank range and live.  Yes the movie is ridiculous on the whole, but there is a consistency to it that is undermined by this choice.  There are plenty of ways she could have lost an eye that wouldn’t leave me scratching my head.  Plus, the reveal shot of her with the eye-patch is in every single trailer, yet the shot doesn’t happen until the last ten minutes of the movie, completely ruining any suspense over her apparent death.

In the end, it’s just really nice to see Danny Trejo in a starring role.  I had the pleasure of meeting him on the set of a very low-budget martial arts flick called Beatdown.  He seemed humble and gracious to have the career he’s had.  As his grizzled face suggests, it has been a long and bumpy road to his current fame, and I hope Machete gets to ride again one day.   

 

 

 

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