A very large, heavy knife, usually with one sharp edge. It's main usage is to slash and cut, not to stab because it usually has no point, only a long slashing edge. Machetes are common weapons in Africa, Asia and South America. In some areas where guns have entered mainstream culture, machetes are still the weapon of choice.

In Asia, where guns are still not used as extensively by gangs as in America, machetes are the main weapons used in gangland warfare. In brutal battles known as "choppings", gang members would slash wildly, often maiming each other, chopping off fingers or even entire arms. Death by "chopping" is a much more macabre way to die than gun wounds, victims bleed to death with small parts of their bodies littered around them. Very nasty.

It really did begin as a joke -- when Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino collaborated on shock-thrill-gore-fest Grindhouse in 2007, each included a collection of fake trailers for other films, titles such as "Werewolf Women of the SS" and "Hobo With a Shotgun." Rodriguez included in his group a mock-trailer for a film idea he'd had in his pocket for years: Machete, a star vehicle for Danny Trejo as "Machete Cortez," a Mexican Federale who comes to the US as an illegal immigrant worker, but ends up hired to assassinate a virulently anti-immigrant Senator. But the whole assassination is a Machiavellian set-up (designed to boost the Senator's profile), and it is Trejo who winds up shot, left for dead, and -- once recovered -- on the anti-heroic rampage for revenge. The fake trailer generated such delight that the project got greenlit as a real movie, and Trejo comes back for the full-length role, as does Cheech Marin (who appeared in the trailer as a shotgun-wielding priest who is apparently Machete's brother).

The real film, shot late in 2009 for a September 2010 release, boasts some other notable Latino stars, including Michelle Rodriguez (who appears at one point sporting an eyepatch and a pair of heavy duty handguns) and Jessica Alba (initially on the side of deporting illegals in the name of the law, but by the end, fist in the air, exhorting a crowd "we didn't cross the border, the border crossed us!!"). And, it also includes a cowboy-hatted Robert DeNiro as the targeted xenophobic politico, and turns by Lindsay Lohan, Don Johnson as a sheriff, and, for his first role in quite a while, Steven Seagal (who engages in a machete-fight with Machete; tip: never fight a person using a weapon that is also their name). The Don Johnson turn should be a particularly interesting one, as he's clearly a bad guy here.... but still a lawman as he was in Miami Vice, Dead Bang (but did anyone see that flick?) and Nash Bridges -- which also starred Cheech -- so who wants to place odds that this character gets his comeuppance at the hands of Cheech's priest?

One really funny aspect of this whole project is, it is not Rodriguez' first silver screen use of the Machete character, played by Trejo; in all three Spy Kids flicks, Rodriguez used the character (and actor) in a minor part, as an uncle of the title kids. Probably that coincidence will have to be written off as happening in an alternative universe, for the world of Spy Kids is not so bloody and gruesome as Machete's world (although it is, naturally, far more technologically advanced, if harmlessly so).

Ma*che"te (?), n. [Sp.]

A large heavy knife resembling a broadsword, often two or three feet in length, -- used by the inhabitants of Spanish America as a hatchet to cut their way through thickets, and for various other purposes.

J. Stevens.

 

© Webster 1913.

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