Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 04 September 2010
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
Perhaps a better title would have been Beavis and Butthead Do The Border. Barely five minutes into the film and heads roll, literally. With a 105 minute running time, that means there’s a full 100 minutes to fill with idiotically irresponsible gore, macho bravado, sexual exploitation, and every cliché and stereotype that comes to mind in the matter of undocumented workers and the corrupt officials who use them as political leverage.
The extreme violence begets a blood flow befitting Niagara Falls, and women are simply provocatively dressed (or undressed) bodies. The hero is an alienated anti-hero who wields the large curved knife that gives him his nickname.
Ex-federale Machete (Danny Trejo) is a fierce badass with nothing to lose and that makes him even more deadly. His wife and daughter have been murdered some years before by Mexican drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal). Now in the U.S. illegally, Machete is recruited by the conniving Booth (Jeff Fahey) to participate in a convoluted assassination attempt that is really a set-up to ensure that corrupt Senator McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro) will get re-elected on his harsh anti-immigration stance. Border Patrol Officer Lt. Stillman (Don Johnson) is an outright murderer on a mission to rid the border seemingly of all of its inhabitants, legal or not. Of course he’s in cahoots with Booth and McLaughlin.
A female immigration officer (Jessica Alba) keeps a semi-undercover eye on both Machete and Luz, (Michelle Rodriguez) a taco truck owner and secret underground operative for the undocumented day laborers who comprise The Network. Eventually, these three find their lives entwined in the fight against corruption.
Machete’s got a brother (Cheech Marin) who’s a foul-mouthed priest. Booth’s got a wife, June (Alicia Marek) and daughter, April (Lindsey Lohan) that find it hard to stay clothed, frolicking naked in the pool together like, you know, every mother and daughter would…NOT!
The exploits of all of the players result in a powder keg of gun and knife action devoid of any consequences that would weigh it down or make it a drag for the nano-second attention spanners who must make up its target audience. Everyone should be able to eliminate everyone else at will. All women must fall for the facially challenged Machete. A gun arsenal must be uncovered. Can’t you just hear the snickering “heh-heh” of a Beavis right now? “Hey, that dude just got his face chopped in half. Cool.”
Do we really want the unenlightened bad old days back? Sadly, many will say yes to the perpetual brutality (shoot and slice), sexist pandering (from F-Me shoes on an immigration agent to a midriff baring combat outfit worn by a seemingly intelligent female), cheap shots (a priest that curses and smokes weed), tragic circumstances (mother/daughter cokehead sluts), and multi-millionaire drug lords calling the shots (with a stable of women to create the delusion of his appeal).
Trejo’s Machete is repulsive and charismatic at the same time, but not above a roll in the hay with just anyone who happens upon him. So much for the grieving husband and father. He’s the perfect choice for portraying an embittered loner with no problem becoming a human weed whacker when ambushed.
Jessica Alba as immigration agent Sartana wears ridiculous shoes throughout each and every scene, negating her own authority with skin-tight clothes and stilettos that qualify as deadly weapons themselves. De Niro should be far above this type of role, but sadly, is not. Seagal seems right at home, though. Fahey is gleefully evil, Marin is Marin, always good for a laugh, and Johnson is very convincing as a lunatic cop.
Lohan has a boozy face, already aging beyond her years and turns in a barely conscious performance playing a horny, narcotic-filled party girl. Michelle Rodriquez shines briefly as a sort of guerilla warfare feminist heroine, but succumbs to the required sexpot transformation that is the basis for all female portrayals in this universe.
Director Robert Rodriguez (Grind House: Planet Terror) channels the mind of a seventh grade boy who’s just discovered violent video games and girlie mags. The plot’s as mature and thought provoking as a whoopee cushion prank at a funeral. Rodriguez does succeed in capturing the unenlightened ‘70’s action B-movie sensationalism that rides on pure adrenalin without intellect. Who needs It.? Machete’s got a machete. End of story and quite possibly, the end of someone's head staying attached to their neck.
Some may call this type of over-the-top cinemaniacal feature a guilty pleasure and it’s true. Everyone involved is guilty of trying to squeeze laughs out of misfortune, slaughter, and the very worst behavior humanity has to offer. That’s marginally alright at best if you can transcend it – sad if you think that’s the way things should be because you “seen it at the movies.” Bad grammar is anticipated and even scripted here as in “Machete don’t text.”
It’s incredibly easy to take the low road when it’s one big trough and everyone’s happy to wallow in the muck without a second thought. The film takes feeble stabs at relevance by featuring timely political commentary despite the rest of its dated machismo, but falls desperately short.
A machete would come in handy here, if only to symbolically cut away from this cesspool of self-indulgent mayhem.