¡Machete! ¡Machete! ¡Ma-f***ing-chete!

I don’t want to spoil this too much so I will just say this: you must must must go and see this film. Unless you are really unable to cope with severed heads, disembowelled thugs, joyous ironic Chicano fun-poking, gatling guns on motorbikes, a home-made cat’o’ninetails with scalpels at the ends, a mobile phone produced from a naked woman’s downstairs area and (frankly) far too much of Lindsey Lohan’s rack*. Hands down the best film I’ve seen for absolutely ages (at least since Inglourious Basterds, and probably much longer) – even if it’s a distinctly guilty pleasure.

The whole cast is amazing: DeNiro is funny for the first time in decades; Jeff Fahey nails the stereotypical creep baddie and his last name is Booth; Jessica Alba and Danny Trejo (whose face deserves to have a book written about it) are great as a very peculiar lead pair; Cheech Marin is just perfect as the priest; Don Johnson is totally sinister (and, brilliantly, credited as “introducing Don Johnson”); and Michelle Rodriguez as Luz has just knocked Mindy Macready (aka Hit-Girl) off the perch of my all-time heroes list (I think of Rodriguez as a kind of a twenty-first century Oliver Reed, except she can act). Steven Seagal has definitely slowed-down since I last saw him, but he is spot on as the Mexican drug baron who happens to also be a samurai sword expert.

I loved all the Mexican in-jokes too. I was glad I wore my Virgin of Guadalupe t-shirt (see below) to the cinema – it’s from Austin, the city where the film was made (and presumably set, though as far as I could tell it was never mentioned), but is a distinctly Mexican import. There’s obviously a ton in the film about immigration, racism and vigilantes, but there are a stack of more lighthearted references too: a fantastic meta-scene where the bodyguards realise that they assume all Mexicans to be benign gardeners; the revenge of the gardener’s implements which follows that; a crowd of Mexicans armed with increasingly absurd (yet all ‘characteristic’) weapons – shovel, hoe, wooden rake, wheeled ice-cream chiller; the fact that anybody working in the construction, hospitality and medical fields in Texas is assumed to be Mexican. All good stuff, and navigated with the right tone by Robert Rodriguez** in my opinion – there are no cheap laughs at the expense of anyone for a stereotypical reason. Other than maybe the hilarity of seeing two high-heeled saucy nurses firing sub-machine guns.

Virgin on the ridiculous

Some reviewers think the politics are too one-dimensional to be taken seriously. Well, it’s a spoof, okay, but still, the politics of the frontera are pretty damned simple to a lot of people, whether you hate what happens or (like the vigilantes) you relish the spirit of the Alamo. I thought it was a pretty cool way to smuggle a timely bit of politics to an audience that would normally run a mile from it, Mexicophiles excepted. And there is something for everyone – the group of noisy frat boys behind me in the cinema (who nearly left during the adverts because a Calvin Klein advert with some half-naked men was “disgusting”) just laughed and said “that’s sooooo wrong” every time DeNiro or Lohan did anything remotely outrageous. Others were mainly there for the severed bits and pieces, and related spurts of blood. There was a lot of sucking of breath when Machete is in the pool with a naked Lohan and her on-screen mother (also naked). And with Jessica Alba involved there will doubtless be a fair few people who are there just for the view. So when I said there’s something for everyone, I meant everyone who’s at least about fifteen…

Anyway, it’s tremendous. Somewhat awful, clearly, but completely brilliant too. I had about twenty genuine leg-slapping belly-laughs, which makes it a four out of five for me.

*OK, apparently it’s someone else’s rack

**Spy Kids can now be forgiven, I think. Wait, it turns out everyone loved it!?

Published in: on September 4, 2010 at 5:27 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. On a more sombre note, this is heartbreaking: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11169379 – it’s what is addressed in much of Bolaño’s 2666 in such brutal fashion.

  2. Just found this review which has some clips. They mark out of four at the NYP which seems a little odd to my base-ten mind.

  3. I probably wouldn’t go as far as this chap does in his praise of LiLo:
    She certainly isn’t bad in this though. Which was a surprise.

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