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Miles Mogulescu Headshot

Robert Rodriguez Kicks Ass, Takes Names and Directs Most Radical Hollywood Film in Ages

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Robert Rodriguez -- like his good buddy and frequent collaborator Quentin Tarantino -- sure loves his pulp fiction and his B-movies. In a both an homage to, and hilarious send-up of, 70s B movies, there are more limbs severed and blood splattered in Machete than in the best of Sam Peckinpah. If you're not generally a fan of movie violence, don't let that scare you away. This is brilliant satire, my friend, and the violence is cartoon-like, no scarier than your average Saturday morning kids show. In fact lots of it's hilariously funny. It makes for a wild ride, one of the most purely entertaining movies to come along in quite a while. Go see Machete both for its love of filmmaking and for its timely take on immigration along the border.

Rodriguez also loves his Hispanic brothers and sisters, whether legal or illegal (particularly the sisters played by the strong and sexy Michelle Rodriguez (no relation) and Jessica Alba). I can't remember a recent movie that shows so much respect for the men and women who work hard to build our houses, tend our gardens, wash our dishes and take care of our children. It's appropriate that this film opened on Labor Day weekend.

Though a few right-wing bloggers, like Andrew Breitbart, warn that Machete will encourage race war, this doesn't mean Rodriguez has anything against white people -- just against the kind of white people like a hypocritical right-wing politician (Robert De Niro) who calls immigrants "cockroaches" while secretly taking money from wealthy businessmen who want to keep down labor costs and from a Mexican drug lord (Steven Seagal) who wants to control traffic across the border.

Machete has an all-star cast, which is more impressive than Sly Stallone's geezer action stars in The Expendables. In addition to DeNiro, Alba, Rodriguez and Seagal, Machete stars Cheech Marin as a priest, Don Johnson as a border vigilante, Jeff Fahey as a right-wing political operative with an incestuous love for his daughter, Lindsay Lohan as the daughter who is the object of his lust, and in his first starring role as Machete, Danny Trejo, a remarkable Mexican-American character actor whose pockmarked face is as iconic as Charles Bronson's.

Trejo plays a former Mexican Federale who, in the pre-credit opening sequence, sees his wife murdered by drug-lord Seagal and is now hiding out in Texas. He's soon hired by a political consultant with ties to wealthy Texas businessmen to assassinate the right-wing politician played by DeNiro. (Rodriguez makes a brilliant faux commercial for DeNiro's campaign exploiting fear and hatred of immigrants. Rodriguez is so good at this that he should be hired by David Axelrod to make real political commercials.)

The assassination attempt is really a set-up staged by De Niro's campaign manager to turn him into a martyr and help secure his reelection. Machete is soon on the run from an assortment of heavies and has to use a veritable arsenal of knives, guns, and of course his beloved machete, to fight his way out of a numerous dangerous encounters, depicted through a series of operatic set pieces. In the most hilarious set piece of all, he uses a Mexican's immigrant's iconic implements -- garden tools -- to fight off the political operative's bodyguards.

Along the way, Machete convinces a Mexican-American border policewoman (Alba) to switch sides and help her brothers and sisters (and, of course, gets to bed her). And he befriends another strong Mexican-American woman (Michelle Rodriguez) who runs a taco stand for laborers by day, and is the mythical "Shé" by night, the underground leader of a network of immigrants and their supporters who fight back against the right-wing vigilantes headed by Don Johnson in another hilariously satirical turn. (Machete naturally gets to bed Rodriguez too).

If you're someone who identifies with the underdog, you'll cheer at the climactic scene in which the network of immigrants let by Machete and Shé (and a few Anglo homeboys who help them) take on Don Johnson and his band of racist killers.

It makes for huge fun and one of the most radical Hollywood films in ages. There's good reason why Rodriguez named his Austin-based production company Troublemaker Studios.

(Full disclosure: While I don't know Rodriguez personally, in my day job as an entertainment lawyer, I've helped negotiate potential financing for future Rodriguez projects.)