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Script Review: Robert Rodriguez’s Machete

Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageAbout the only people who have any reason to fondly reminisce about the 1980’s are Republicans (who can’t stop fawning over Ronald Reagan) and action movie lovers.  The 80’s were full of action movies populated by muscled demigods that ate lightning and crapped thunder.  One-man armies that shrugged off gunshot wounds like they were mosquito bites.  I’ve written of my love for this era before, and it’s with more than a twinge of disappointment that I realize times have changed.  Action movies, real, test-markets-and-PG-13-limits-be-damned action movies full of glorified, over-the-top violence and obligatory titty shots are dead.  They’re extinct.  Or at least, I thought they were.  Until I read the script for Robert Rodriguez’s Machete and remembered his resume.


If you’re one of the hundred or so people that actually saw Grindhouse, then you might remember that several of RR and Quentin Tarantino’s film-making buddies produced trailers for non-existent films that ran in front of Death Proof and Planet Terror.  One of them was done by RR himself, for a film called Machete.  You can go ahead and watch the trailer below (amazingly it hasn’t been flagged for nudity by YouTube, awesome!):

Here’s the crazy part.  While Eli Roth and Rob Zombie and Edgar Wright probably just pulled the ideas for their fake trailers out of their asses and slapped them together with no thought of ever actually turning them into real films, that wasn’t the case with RR.  After working with Danny Terjo in Desperado, he wrote an entire script for a feature-length film centering on Trejo as a Charles Bronsan-esque Federale named Machete, but he never got around to making it.  Cut to when they were making Grindhouse and he puts together that trailer.  Cut to present day and RR is actually moving forward with a Machete feature film. 

So what can we expect?  Well, like I said, I thought the rated R action movies of my youth full of bullets, blood, and boobs were just that: a thing of the past.   Not so.  The short version is that if you took that trailer up there and expanded it to a run-time of 90 minutes or so, that would pretty much be the movie.  Hell, RR could actually re-use that trailer for the movie when he actually gets around to making it.  And really, that’s the best gauge of whether or not you will like Machete.  If you enjoyed Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, if you watch that trailer and think it looks like a helluva good time, you’re going to like this movie.

One thing that struck me is that this is definitely a chance for long-time character actor Danny Trejo to shine, as he is already attached in the starring role.  His relationship with RR reminds me of the friendship that developed between Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Perlman.  Or Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi.  Machete might be more Army of Darkness than Hellboy, and with the R rating it is sure to garner it likely won’t do the same level of business as the latter, but I imagine there’s room for a Machete franchise in some form or another (perhaps the direct-to-DVD market?), assuming RR’s busy schedule allows for more of these films to be made.  The script certainly sets Machete up for possible sequels.

A cautionary note: if you happen to have voted for John McCain in the last Presidential election, or if you have ever found yourself issuing a hearty “Fuck Yeah!” after watching Lou Dobbs’ latest rant about how illegal immigrants are destroying the fabric of ‘Merica, well, I don’t think you’re going to like this movie very much.  As in not at all.

See, Machete is definitely the hero of this movie, and he seems to be a hero especially tailored for Latin American viewers.  The villain of the story is a corrupt Texas politician who is primarily interested in what drives all corrupt politicians (gaining and maintaining a position of power), but to do so he allies himself with an extreme Right-wing group of militia types who ascribe to the “shoot on sight” school of thought when it comes to dealing with illegal immigrants attempting to cross the Mexican-American border.  Machete serves as both protector of and champion for this downtrodden group. 

On a final note, I mentioned earlier how action movies in their heyday rarely disappointed when it came to including a bit of eye-candy in the form of a topless babe for the guys (the obvious target demographic).  While these have gone the way of the dodo so as to maintain a PG-13 rating for action movies of today, RR says to hell with that and includes copious amounts of female nudity.  And yet, for as many titty shots that are in this script, I tend to think that there’s less objectification of women here than in other action movies.  Let me explain.  Typically some random women appears on screen, we got a glimpse of breasts, and she’s gone, never to be seen again.  She serves no other purpose beyond the nude scene.  While there’s some of this in Machete, most of the nudity that we can expect comes from female characters with fairly prominent roles in the movie.  And all of them are written as very strong, capable women.  They can hold their own and kick as much ass as the men.  How many action movies can claim that?  With Machete RR seems to be continuing the trend he started with Salma Hayek’s character in Desperado.  IMHO, the strong female characters are as welcome as the nudity.  Well, almost as welcome [wink, wink].

Whenever RR gets around to filming Machete, it is sure to deliver violent, testosterone-basted action that appeals to any movie lover who finds action flicks of today coming up short.