Rodriguez's "Machete" in immigration debate

Fri Aug 27, 2010 2:10am EDT
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By Jay A. Fernandez and Borys Kit

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - In Robert Rodriguez's new grindhouse feature "Machete," the vengeful title character uses vicious cutlery to butcher his enemies. Could something similar happen to the movie when it's released next week?

"Machete's" convoluted story explicitly takes place amid the current powder keg of an immigration debate and on the heels of Arizona's controversial anti-illegal immigration legislation. Crooked politicians, powerful drug kingpins, malicious border vigilantes, antsy day laborers, conflicted customs agents and angry revolutionaries seethe along the U.S.-Mexico border in Rodriguez's film. In real life, confusion and violence have peppered both sides of the line.

"It feels like this movie couldn't have come at a more perfect time," Rodriguez said, "even though we came up with it a long time ago."

This first stab at Mexploitation, about a former federale who gets mixed up in a messy conspiracy on the U.S. side of the border, could become a political pinata. This could be a good thing or a bad thing for the movie, but the film's star, Mexican-American Danny Trejo, thinks people will be surprised.

"I think Arizona is going to like this movie," said the man who is Machete. "It doesn't just deal with the guy who comes over the border to support his family; it deals with the corruption on both sides -- the drug dealers, the guys who are getting paid to bring people here and the politicians who, any time they need a good platform, choose immigration. So the feds may now really do something."

The first thing they might do is complain about the movie, which already has kicked up some dust. After Arizona's SB 1070 was signed into law in April, Rodriguez fired the first salvo when he pushed out a recut trailer on Cinco de Mayo that took aim at the state. A tacked-on introduction showed Trejo in character saying, "This is Machete with a special Cinco de Mayo message ... to Arizona." Mayhem, including shots of angry illegal immigrants rising up in rebellion, followed. wasted no time in posting an article, "Violent Movie Declares War on Arizona for Immigration Law," that linked the trailer to an incident the day before in which an unidentified white powder was sent to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who had signed SB 1070 into law. The article, which was quickly removed from the FoxNews website, declared the trailer "just the latest development in a debate that is growing more rancorous by the minute."

"When the first trailer came out, there was a stir," said Shannon McGauley, president of the Texas Minutemen, self-appointed immigration-law enforcers. "People were saying, 'They're making fun of us.' It had its desired effect -- it had some shock appeal."   Continued...