Most of us would likely agree the most absurd entries in the modern “B-movie” tradition are those pretending to be so much more than what their shallow content suggests. Critics have been complaining for years that films that once bore the definitive marks of B-moviedom — namely, shamelessly shoddy production values — have undergone a grotesque transformation into the well funded, polished blockbuster drivel of today.
At Quality 16 and Rave
20th Century Fox
Fortunately, a timely double feature titled “Grindhouse” (directed by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez) was precisely the film fans of a violent, blood-spattered exploitation film genre had been waiting for. It set in motion a new wave of appreciation for a gritty form of entertainment, a medium that seemed lost when mainstream Hollywood reinvented it for monetary gain. Rest assured the true B-movies of yesterday are back with a vengeance, particularly if Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo, “Con Air”) has anything to say about it.
“Machete” is a politically fueled thriller about an ex-Federale whose penchant for sharp objects and brutal manner of dealing with evil men will have right-wing moralists and immigration officials talking for the next decade, and rightly so. Machete has stunning pros and crippling cons, but throughout all the chaos, it never once gives us the impression that it takes itself seriously; for that alone, it deserves a measure of our approval.
As for any perceived political or racial motivations, there are none in reality. It’s simply the good old Tarantino formula appropriated by Rodriguez: Take an exploited demographic, give them omnipotent strength, turn them against their aggressors and watch the fireworks. It’s a work of paracinema that will both offend and disgust, but it somehow manages a successful combination of the glamorized, crowd-friendly violence that pervades Hollywood and the downright sadism of films like “I Spit on Your Grave.”
“Machete” loses points for its extreme sacrilege that’s devoid of humor and serves no purpose in the movie. It strays often from its theme of Mexican immigration to take excessive jabs at sensitive subjects that have no bearing on the plot. This would normally seem like nothing more than an expected trait of an exploitation film, but in the context of “Machete,” it seems like an insidious hidden agenda and detracts from the mindlessness that makes the movie enjoyable. Nonetheless, even the purest of exploitation movies is by definition deplorable, and is usually not deemed a masterpiece by critical authority.
Still, there are humorous hidden gems throughout this movie. The irreverent parallelism between the Lindsay Lohan of tabloid fame and the drug-addicted character she plays in “Machete” is nothing short of fitting.
Fortify your stomachs, suppress your gag reflexes and witness the resurrection of the most disgusting genre of film you’ll ever watch.