Starring Danny Trejo as an ex-Federale who embarks on a blood-stained, cross-border revenge escapade, Robert Rodriguez's Machete looks to tap (at least superficially) into the simmering national debate about illegal immigration with a few well-placed decapitations. The film, born from a two-minute mock trailer in Rodriguez's 2007 gleefully-seedy B-movie Grindhouse, has already rankled a few pundits who didn't find its "nose-thumbing insouciance" and "shameless vulgarity" particularly commendable. The sheer audacity of the flick, which includes Robert De Niro comparing illegal immigrants to cockroaches and Lindsey Lohan as a gun-toting nun, hopes to build on the inevitable controversy before its release. Reviewers are more interested in dissecting what the film is actually trying to say, if anything.
- The First Stab at 'Mexploitation' could become a "political pinata," note Jay A. Fernandez and Borys Kit at The Hollywood Reporter, who outline the film's most controversial elements: "border vigilantes led by Don Johnson as a kind of avatar for Maricopa County's Sheriff Joe Arpaio and fake political ads for an incumbent senator whose platform is built on his 'hard line against wetbacks' and a description of them as 'parasites.' That the two characters murder a pregnant Mexican woman to prevent her baby from being born in America and then shoot her distraught husband while uttering the line, 'Welcome to America,' underlines the point."
- Sprinkles 'Gasoline on the Fires of the Immigration Debate' points out New York Times critic Stephen Holden, who cautions that "its pro-Mexican, anti-American stance is so gleefully inflammatory that some incensed nativists may refuse to get the joke." But this isn't the film that will start a "race war," it makes fun of itself too much to do that: "the only viewers it is likely to upset are the same kind of people who once claimed that the purple Tinky Winky in 'Teletubbies' promoted a gay agenda."
- 'No, This May Not Go Over Well In Arizona' but "if it makes people think twice about 'messing with the wrong Mexican" then this movie may be a win, writes Roger Moore at The Orlando Sentinel. Still, the film's tongue-in-cheek nature make it hard to take the "'We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us' pro-immigration message seriously."
- The Blade Is 'Far Too Dull' to Be a Biting Satire and the "whole thing is monumentally gruesome and just as monumentally cynical, a riot of grisly cliches designed to titillate and amuse," concludes Amy Biancolli at The San Francisco Chronicle. The film, whose high point is when a "meat thermometer [is] stuck on 'extra crispy,'" appears to aim at being "more repulsive than funny."
- Obviously, There Isn't 'Thoughtful, Clear-headed Discourse' "Rodriguez and co-director Ethan Maniquis treat immigration with the subtlety that Wile E. Coyote brings to bird-watching," quips Bill Goodykoontz at The Arizona Republic. The entire illegal immigration plot is "murky" at best: one of the few scenes that tackles the topic discusses the "irony that Americans let immigrants care for their children and work in their yards but won't let them into the country." If you're going to see the film, do it because it "apes the grindhouse style to perfection, with grainy film stock for the opening credits and hilarious use of music."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.