When the average moviegoer buys a ticket to see the nation’s second highest grossing film, Machete, he’ll see an over-the-top violent, tasteless and preposterous story about a former Mexican Federale who plays the title character.
But to Americans like me who support stricter controls on illegal immigration, the film insults our intelligence and our cause.
Summarizing the ridiculous and offensive plot, after a series of double dealings involving a Mexican drug lord, Torrez, Machete takes up residence in Texas where he works as an illegal alien day laborer. Eventually he agrees to assassinate State Senator John McLaughlin, a staunch opponent of illegal immigration.
Along the way, we witness multiple decapitations, gratuitous nudity and massive machete-wielding bloodletting. Then director Robert Rodriguez introduces Sartana Rivera, a Mexican-American ICE agent, Luz, an underground taco truck operator who also aids and abets illegal immigrants through her human trafficking organization called “The Network,” and Michael Booth, an unscrupulous businessman opposed to a border fence because he wants the flow of cheap labor to continue.
As the movie evolves, the none-too-subtle attack on proponents of immigration law enforcement develops more fully as it builds to the inevitable climax between the so-called vigilantes and the illegal Mexican immigrants.
McLaughlin, as it turns out, lives a double life as a border vigilante. Along with a trigger-happy Lt. Von Jackson, he kills innocent and unarmed illegal immigrants (one a pregnant woman) while shouting “Welcome to America” and justifies his murders by observing that if born in the United States the child would automatically be an American citizen.
In his campaign for re-election, McLaughlin refers to illegal immigrants as “parasites,” announces that America is “at war” with the aliens and proposes an electrified border fence. McLaughlin’s supporters at his rallies are portrayed as evil, frightened white racists carrying placards demanding an end to immigration.
Virtually every anti-American scene in Machete is a propaganda piece designed as a statement to pass comprehensive immigration reform. With his frequent references to the “broken” immigration system, director Rodriguez never misses a chance to suggest that the Texas economy would collapse without illegal immigrant labor: nurses, dishwashers and gardeners.
The pro-Mexican characters are sympathetically portrayed. Luz just wants to “help the people” while ICE agent Rivera eventually switches sides. Described as being torn between enforcing the law and “doing what is right,” Rivera yells out to a crowd of angry illegal aliens, “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”
Even McLaughlin converts. In one of Machete’s final scenes, McLaughlin fires at groups of vigilantes, then in what is supposed to represent the film’s ultimate irony, he crosses into Mexico where he is taken for an illegal alien and gunned down by the same anti-immigration rednecks who once voted for him.
While too comical to be taken seriously, some nationally published movie critics use Machete as an opportunity to get their digs in against patriots.
Reviewing Machete on September 2 in the New York Times, Steve Holden wrote: “Although laughter is the appropriate response to this pulpy, lighthearted gore fest, its pro-Mexican, anti-American stance is so gleefully inflammatory that some incensed nativists may refuse to get the joke.”