“Machete” & “The Extra Man”
One is pure undistilled machismo:
a tattooed, long-haired, tough-looking hombre who never seems to turn
away from a fight, and never seems to lose one, either.
It doesn’t even matter that he’s 66 and his upper arms sag.
The other is a refined, tea-and-cumpets kind of masculinity, where
it’s important to know how to look comfortable in a tuxedo, to be familiar
with types of fine champagne, and to develop an affinity for the opera.
The interesting part is that it’s the latter one that is really
“Machete” is Director Robert
Rodriguez’ send-up of the tough guy genre, but with some of his own
peculiar affinities: handsome,
prosperous, and charming villains, and rough-cut, beleaguered, unglamorous
heroes. Stark female nudity, so
naked we realize that they are more comfortable in their own skin than we
are staring at it; a certain confidence in the natural industriousness and
innate perception of the common working man; remarkable because it’s a
point of view practically unique in current cinema.
And, not surprisingly, a discernible political point of
view: that those who are
clamoring about getting tough on illegal immigrants either don’t realize
the inner workings of the national economy, or are so racist they actually
consider other races to be inherently inferior, even subhuman----yes,
without ever using the word, fascist.
The irony is that the apparent
law-abiders are actually those who exploit and oppress, while those who seem
to be law-breakers are those who are simply trying to make an honest living
and raise their families in peace.
In the Extra Man,” no one is
interested in raising a family at all.
Paul Dano plays the ultimate nerd:
a literature teacher who was abruptly dismissed from a rural private
school because he was unguarded enough to try on a woman’s brassiere which
he literally stumbled upon, just to see how it felt, and in walks the
headmistress, who’s suitably chagrined enough to demand his immediate
He didn’t like that job much, anyway.
He’d always wanted to live in New York City, and after a time of
wandering aimlessly (he had some money saved from his teaching job), he
answers a newspaper ad for a roommate, and winds up with….Kevin Kline, who
plays a very odd character: he
likes classical music, he seems to have no visible means of support, he
declares women to be off-limits in the entire apartment, much less for
fraternizing, and even much less as overnight liaisons.
In fact, Kline declares that he doesn’t want to see any women at
all inside the apartment. They
can’t be trusted, and they will only complicate things.
Our weirdo Paul Dano is now free to pursue his unmentionable
avocation as a cross-dresser. He
doesn’t seem to have any particular kind of sexual proclivities, other
than for the occasional random dominatrix.
And only after some consternation does he eventually discover that
Kline’s “other” life is to serve as a Gigolo, and there is a part of
him repulsed by even considering that, and a part of him fascinated with how
one sets that up, exactly, and a part of him that envies the easygoing
savoir faire of his would-be mentor.
Throw in a trollish-looking sidekick
(John C. Reilly) and a way-too-cute-for-this-office kind of collaborative
co-worker (Katie Holmes), and you have all the ingredients for a really
dense relational split pea soup. At the end, we’re no really sure how it
tastes, or if it has any taste at all.
We just know it’s better tasted than observed.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace