Wednesday, September 22, 2010

a bloody two-fer

In the last two weeks I saw some funny, bloody as hell stuff. One was of course MACHETE, Robert Rodriguez's hilarious and fun-packed tribute to Danny Trejo and '70s grindhouse revenge flicks. Like an early '70s film, it's not afraid to stick it to the man, this time skewering our ridiculous Catch-22 immigration policy. Danny Trejo gets the role of a lifetime as the biggest bad-ass Mexican Federale, so bad he just uses a huge Machete instead of a gun, for which he is so named. The movie wastes no time, introducing him as he's about to use his police cruiser as a missile to take out Mexico's biggest drug kingpin's lair. But of course, he is betrayed and his family murdered, and three years later finds him as a day laborer in Texas.

As the Dude would say, "shit comes to light," and after an immigrant-baiting politician played expertly by Robert DeNiro- fucks with the wrong Mexican, he goes on a rampage of revenge. He teams up with Michelle Rodriguez, fights Minutemen, and has a balls-out final battle that makes the campy, explosion-infested finale of DESPERADO seem outdone. Favorite kill? Crushing a redneck with a low-rider. The film never loses its low-budget look, but it also doesn't try too hard, like parts of GRINDHOUSE did. Is it perfect? As a homage to these films we loved, like THE EXTERMINATOR, it succeeds spectacularly and transcends the films it pays tribute to. It kicks the ass of Stallone's retro-action flick, as far as I'm concerned. We have a few moments of distraction, but overall we get everything we ask for- blood, booms, and boobies. Lindsay Lohan has a small, perfect role as a rich Paris Hilton wanna-be who turns into a vengeful Catholic valkyrie, and I give her credit for taking the part- and baring all for our benefit, in more ways than one. The media's never forgiven her for becoming an adult woman, and I say: get over it. She's not a Disney girl anymore. But moreso than her cameo, I loved De Niro's W impression, as his Texas accent fades in and out. It was also great seeing Steven Seagal play a bad guy, a role that suits him.

MACHETE is leaving its mark: Firecracker and I went to see the Broadway musical BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON and at one point, when the ridiculous, over the top spoof most reminiscent of Matt Stone & Trey Parker's early masterpiece CANNIBAL: THE MUSICAL gets to Jackson's skirmishes with the Spanish, one of the Spaniards opens his huge duster coat to reveal dozens of knives, just like Machete does in the trailer. I enjoyed this play a lot. It's not perfect either; it starts off at 11, campy, crazy and goofy, and ends on a more serious note as Jackson's populism catches up with him, and he is faced with "The Indian Question," and becomes one of history's greatest monsters by giving the people what they want.

I enjoyed the hell out of this musical, which seemed inspired by one of my favorites, EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL. It's risque, ridiculous, and campy. Half the story is told by a narrator in a mechanical wheelchair who suffers all sorts of fourth wall abuses. Andrew Jackson is played like a rock star, including AC/DC style A/J logos on the drum set. The songs are raucous and clever, if not entirely memorable, but full of energy. They make comparisons to W's administration, Obama's difficulties with Congress, the Bush/Gore election debacle (because Jackson first lost by electoral votes, and was voted down by the Senate) but it's not overtly political. Perhaps it should be. It ends on a downer, with Jackson's joyous populism turning on him, as he must betray the Creek Indians who helped him peacefully move other tribes, and put forth the brutal policies that would lead to the Trail of Tears and other acts of genocide.

My only complaint is that this brave, relentlessly funny show didn't even plumb deep enough into Jackson's wikipedia entry for jokes. The best gags are often the hilariously idiotic portrayals of historical figures such as Martin Van Buren, John Calhoun, Henry Clay, and John Quincy Adams as foppish buffoons with Elizabethan collars, when Jackson led an unbelievable life. He fought 13 duels and was shot so many times they said "he rattled like a bag of marbles." The man on our $20 bill with his flowing silver locks founded the Democratic party, which got its donkey symbol from his opponents calling him a jackass. Like the Republicans have gone a long way from their roots with Lincoln, the Democratic party has wandered far from Jackson's genocidal populism, and that's left untouched. But it's a damn entertaining musical, much like a potty mouthed punk's daydreams in history class, with a great sense of humor.


© 2010 Tommy Salami

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