Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Machete" - Spoof Or Incitement To Race War?

Exploitation flick strikes at the heart of border politics

Look into the face of Danny Trejo and behold a seasoned
character actor branded with his typical role as a Hispanic
badass handy with the gun and knife.

Moviegoers will remember him from such dramas as "Salton
Sea," a story about police involvement in the manufacturing
and sales of methamphetamines, or in his role as "Razor
Charlie" in Quentin Tarantino's "From Dusk 'Til Dawn."

When he's not in character, he's a pleasant enough chap, but
when he takes on the guise as one of his screen depictions -
look out.

You are definitely not looking at The Cisco Kid.

You will be looking at a very convincing gang hoodlum, a
pistolero, an extremely violent vato, a cholo with elaborate
penitentiary tattoos and an extremely rough face.

When he snarls, well, that's when Bad José gets worse - then
and there.

All this seems to come naturally to the native of Echo Park,
a Los Angeles movie enclave nestled in a sun-splashed canyon
northwest of downtown Shaky and southeast of Hollywood that
once was the pre-war - that is, pre-World War One - site of
the Mack Sennet Studio. They made the "Keystone Kops" films
there, as well as Laurel and Hardy and many Charlie Chaplin

In his latest project, he stars as an exiled ex-Federale
doing hard time day labor on the streets of Austin when he's
approached by a very sinister character played by Jeff
Fahey. The proposition: kill a Senator played by Robert
DeNiro who advocates following Arizona's suit by passing a
law that allows state control of the Mexican border, since
the U.S. government doesn't seem up to the task.

Predictably, the climax of the film comes when the Trejo
character has been double-crossed by the bad guys and shows
up in the obligatory black duster with literally dozens of
knives - everything from machetes to carving knives -
concealed in the lining of the ankle-length garment.

The trailer, an inspiration of Mssrs. Robert Rodriguez and
Quentin Tarantino, at that point intones "They f---ed with
the wrong Mexican!"

Other luminaries turn in performances in the best
exploitation style. Lindsay Lohan licks the barrel of some
kind of huge magnum revolver; Michelle Rodriguez plays a
tres-chic Hispanic ingenue; Cheech Marin does yeoman's
service as a Catholic priest who totes two pump action
shotguns against the "conservative" gringos; Don Johnson
plays a very racist, very redneck policeman complete with
Smoky The Bear hat and aviator shades; Jessica Alba shouts
out, "We didn't cross the border; the border crossed us!" at
a rally on the steps of the Capitol Building.

In its concluding sequence, the trailer blazes away,
screaming, "'Machete' says F@#%K Arizona!"

I guess the central question is this. Do you have a sense
of humor?

Just knowing that this project started as a spoof of an
exploitation film trailer that was inserted into yet another
feature film produced and directed by Mr. Tarantino,
"Grindhouse," should get you prepared to know you should
have one - or at least start thinking about it.

Certain conservatives in the film industry are decrying the
fact that the Texas Film Commission granted the project
sales tax exempt status because it was shot in Texas.
Currently, the Governor's office is fielding angry
complaints from the conservative community regarding
everything from the fact that the film was completed at the
Austin Film Studio located at the airport, a city facility
managed by the Austin Film Society that uses an old building
left over from when it was Bergstrom Air Force Base, to the
fact that its producers have filed an application for state

The Film Commission funds only projects that have been
completed - principal photography, post production, editing,

So far, the only benefit Mr. Rodriguez's Troublemaker
Studios has received is the Comptroller's Office usual
waiver of the collection of sales taxes on equipment and
supplies bought and leased for the production. It's a
benefit given filmmakers under the terms of a statute that
enabled the creation of the Commission. It matters not what
the politics of the project may be, only that it was
completed in the Lone Star State.

Of course, the Film Commission assists with the necessary
permits required to film on the streets and highways of the
state. So does every other state.

John Nolte, editor-in-chief of the website "Big Hollywood,"
asked in his column, "Are racist-revenge fantasies the
intended use of such publicly and community supported

His bottom line - "The left using racial divisiveness to
keep their fractured coalition together is nothing new..."

Writing from his home base in Lumberton, Texas, conservative
blogger Peter Morrison shouted for revenge on "the Hollywood

"To make matters even worse, it has come to light that this
film is not only being shot in Texas, it may have received
financial and other assistance from the government of the
State of Texas. We need to contact Governor Perry and the
Texas Film Commission to protest this outrage, and demand
that no more of our taxpayer dollars are used to finance
anti-American propaganda."

Yawning, The Legendary said, "Once you've been smuggled into
the drive-in on a Saturday night in the trunk of a '56 Chevy
so you can watch Stanley Kramer's 'The Wild One' starring
Marlon Brando, it's kind of hard to get excited about the
politics of Tinseltown projects, even if they made them in

Besides, I don't make no deals with no cops and we don't
need no stinking badges, neither.

Want to watch the trailer?

I'm warning you, be sure the little ones are safely in bed.

As the marquees in the old-time, Pre-Giuliani Times Square
used to say, "A Story Torn From Today's Headlines!"


  1. I think it looks like fantastic fun. Some people have very delicate feelings,eh?

  2. Total hoot, Mr. Brazill. A total hoot, I say.

    The Legendary

  3. Re films: this Matt Dukes Jordan piece is fun.

  4. "...the French hold Jim Thompson in the same esteem as Edgar Allan Poe and Mickey Rourke..."

    What DID I tell you? I repeat: WHAT did I tell you? Jim Thompson - king of pulp. Tarantino, et. al., they copped their licks from Mr. Thompson, king of the Ft. Worth Press re-write bank and former bell captain at the old Texas Hotel in downtown Cowtown.

    Go watch "The Getaway," either version, then go figure. Cat knew how people really are, man. To the bone!

    It's to Walter Hill's credit that he didn't tamper with Mr. Thompson's story all that much. It cooks. Just cooks.

    The Legendary