Latsploitation Explosion: Viva Machete!

Last week, I saw Machete! and it was the most entertaining popcorn flick I’ve seen in a long time. Machete! makes up for the massive disappointment that was Sly Stallone’s Expendables. To paraphrase a close associate, “it’s the Mexican version of Shaft.” I’d agree but it’s definitely a Robert Rodriguez film: over-stylized violence laced with appropriately fitting comedic touches. Obviously, Danny Trejo doesn’t set women’s hearts on fire as a sex icon, but he does fill badass category more than Richard Roundtree ever did. And seeing the beautiful Jessica Alba is always a viewing pleasure. But my heart still belongs to Michelle Rodriguez. Yeah, she takes the tomboy thing a bit too far; but I still love her. If you love bloody action, quirky humor, and enjoyed Rodriguez previous work; go see this right now!

What really struck me is that you never really see a movie like this come from the Latin-American perspective. At least in American cinema, Latsploitation (Latin + Exploitation) films are somewhat of an oddity. Whether that’s “good or bad” is not my place to say. But there were many great developments that evolved from Blaxploitation films. On its face, the films were rife with derisive stereotypes and some morally questionable characters; but they did provide African-Americans with their own icons and stronger sense of identity. But that’s going down a path I’m not ready to dissect. That aside, Machete definitely isn’t an original concept, but it does explore some testy, new waters. The real tragedy here is that Machete isn’t connecting to the larger audience it deserves. And as result, it’s not pulling in big box office numbers. Blame it on Labor Day weekend, the immigration issue, lack of an attractive lead, misguided marketing, or any other excuse. Hopefully, Machete and the subsequent sequels will find its cult status in home video market.

On a separate note, we’re long overdue for a blaxploitation video game. A game called Shank was released recently. The spirit of the game clearly has a Mexican theme. And the gameplay is strongly reminiscent of Robert Rodriguez style: overtly graphic and bloody, yet stylish. With that in mind, I’m hoping Shank is Mexican or of Latino descent, which is a major plus. I know race shouldn’t be that big of a deal anymore; but we’re still inundated with movies and games featuring predominately white males. Whereas, women and people of color are still far and few in-between. I realize that’s just one of the breaks of the industry and part of today’s world. But studios and developers need to start taking more risks. Even if it flops, take the salient learning points and try again. There needs to be more balance. If Reservoir Dogs can be made into a video game (and a very bad one at that), then there’s no reason some developer can’t scoop up Richard Roundtree or Pam Grier to drop some lines for game based on Shaft or Foxy Brown. Better yet, I’d like to see a video game adaptation of Michael Jai White’s Black Dynamite and its upcoming sequel. There’s already a cartoon in the works headed for Adult Swim. Half the works already done right there. Plus it’ll help the industry combat that nasty stigma of not having enough minority representation in video games (outside of sports games). As usual, my services are for hire if you want this done successfully. Let’s get this show on the road already.

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