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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Machete

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service

Considering that the Arizona Legislature has recently brought the issue of illegal immigration to the fore, the arrival of the ultraviolent "Machete" (Fox), about a Mexican vigilante handy with sharp objects, is nothing if not timely.

In keeping with the grimy exploitation flicks of the 1970s he so admires, writer-director-producer Robert Rodriguez goes out of his way to tickle and offend. But by championing the rights of undocumented workers and pushing Latino power more generally, Rodriguez gives his latest a thought-provoking veneer that can be recognized apart from its perversities and stylistic aplomb.

Make no mistake: Jocular splatter, not political satire, is the name of the game here and "Machete" is a blunt, lurid instrument. Its genesis was a fake trailer that appeared between the two films Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino released as the double-bill "Grindhouse" in 2007. That talked-about teaser introduced the eponymous hero played by actor Danny Trejo, whose menacing visage will be instantly recognizable from scores of supporting film and television roles.

As fleshed out in this brutal scenario, Machete is an ex-Federale whose wife and daughter are murdered by the drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal). Presumed dead, Machete bides his time for three years working as a day laborer in a Texas border town until, on the basis of his fearsome appearance, he's hired by crooked businessman Booth (Jeff Fahey) to kill a right-wing, anti-immigration state senator named John McLaughlin (Robert De Niro).

Unbeknownst to Machete and the conspirators who double-cross him, this assassination attempt will lead Machete to Torrez and help him empower the Mexican underclass at the same time.

Virtually impossible to sideline for more than a few frames, Machete fells opponents with an array of implements. We witness countless impalings, severed appendages, and decapitations, along with the requisite spurting of blood. In the movie's most disgusting, over-the-top scene, Machete fashions an escape rope out of a thug's intestines.

Viewers should be especially forewarned about Padre, a gun-toting Catholic priest played by Cheech Marin. Padre pays for desecrating his vows and violating numerous commandments by being nailed to a cross in the sanctuary of his church. As with most everything in this B-movie context, this torture sequence is difficult to take seriously, though that doesn't minimize the wince factor or its patent inappropriateness.

The same holds for the character of Booth's daughter April, played by Lindsay Lohan. A drug-addled wastrel, she has a liaison with Machete and her own mother, and then seeks revenge for her father's murder while wearing a nun's habit. Machete also gets cozy with a beautiful U.S. immigration agent named Sartana (Jessica Alba) and the militant Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), who runs a taco truck as a front for an underground network that supports Hispanic aliens.

Finally, no one watching "Machete" can fail to think about the real-life suffering caused by the drug trade and the migration of the desperate across the U.S.-Mexico border. Fortunately, in the real world, there are individuals and organizations that stand up for the less fortunate without employing Machete's immoral methods.

The film contains much gore; myriad acts of violence; sacrilegious behavior and banter; blatant sexuality, including much upper female nudity; semi-graphic encounters; pervasive rough language and profanity; considerable innuendo; torture; and vigilante justice. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John P. McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.


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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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