One could figure that the current drug-war in Mexico--nearly 30,000 people murdered in just three years--would generate a cultural reaction. And one could further figure, of course, that the tens of millions of people who have crossed the U.S.-Mexican border in recent decades would have an enormous cultural impact, including on the movies. But who knew that Hollywood would blame everything that's gone wrong in Mexico on the "Anglos"? At least that's the argument of one new movie, "Machete," which opens Friday.
Well, actually, come to think of it, maybe Hollywood's adversarial stance toward the majority culture is no surprise at all. Yet rarely has the "case" against Anglo America been made as strongly, albeit cartoonishly, as in "Machete." In the film, directed by Robert Rodriguez--best known for "Spy Kids" and "Sin City"--all the Anglos are either evil or stupid. By contrast, the Hispanics are almost all innocent victims, until, of course, the rousing moment of liberation at the end.
One must say here that "Machete" is only a movie--although, in fact, it's more of a comic book than a movie. As usual in both comic books and action films, the characters ignore the laws of physics and gravitational reality. Yet Rodriguez, born in San Antonio, adds his own touches; his action hero, known only as "Machete," does all his fighting with blades and garden tools--a jokey homage to the stereotype of Hispanic landscapers. Yet even so, he can defeat an army of thugs who are carrying pistols and machine guns.
Director Rodriguez has a visual style that he shares with Quentin ("Pulp Fiction," "Kill Bill") Tarantino; we can call it "blood and guts slapstick." That is, imagine every Chaplin-esque pratfall from old movies being replaced with a fast-edited sequence of someone getting his head chopped off, or being disemboweled. If you're in a certain mood, or of a certain age--think 19-year-old male--it's obviously a winningly humorous formula.
"Machete" features a wildly diverse cast: from Robert DeNiro as a supremely evil Texas politician, to Lindsay Lohan as a dopey airhead, to Cheech Marin is a marijuana-puffing priest. But the star is Danny Trejo, playing "Machete," a rugged figure with a face that looks like tire tracks in the desert. Trejo makes Charles Bronson look like a fresh-faced choirboy.
Beyond all the violence and the double-take cameos, "Machete" weaves a tapestry of immense conspiracies. The Anglo power structure is intent on building a border fence, a) so that it can keep the Mexicans out, and b) so that the financiers who control the fence-building operation can secure loopholes in the fence so that favored drug kingpins can still import their wares while excluding rivals. As one of the Anglo baddies explains, the fence is all about hiking drug-trafficking profits.
Meanwhile, in public, DeNiro, the evil pol, is running for re-election using television ads calling illegals crossing the border "parasites" and "cockroaches." Moreover, he proclaims in speeches that "we are at war" with border-crossers. More quietly, the DeNiro character patrols the border with Anglo vigilantes; he insists on being videotaped shooting and killing unarmed Mexicans coming across the border, including a pregnant woman. As he explains, "The high-dollar contributors will love this."
By contrast, almost all the Hispanics in the film are virtuous, especially the character portrayed by Michelle Rodriguez, reprising her hot-but-tough-girl role in "Avatar." In "Machete," she plays a selfless underground community worker, giving selflessly to "the people." Her character, who comes to be known as "She," is meant to remind us of "Che," as in Che Guevara, of course. Indeed, She/Che has the most political lines in the film: "We didn't cross the border--the border crossed us!" And using words directly taken from advocates of "comprehensive immigration reform" in Washington, she adds, "The system doesn't work, it's broken."
Meanwhile, Jessica Alba, playing an Hispanic Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent, must wrestle with the tension between the requirements of her job and her loyalty to her ethnicity. "What's the law and what's right?" she asks. Guess which side she comes down on by the end of the movie.
The ending of the film, in fact, is a sort of mini-race war, a sort of "Mad Max"-like re-enactment of the Alamo, with the Mexicans, of course, winning once again--although this time, there are no noble defenders to be found.
The Reconquista is here--at a theater near you.
James P. Pinkerton is a writer and Fox News contributor. He is the editor/founder of the Serious Medicine Strategy blog.
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