Machete and El Puerco Lloron Shock, Then Delight

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The Dinner: Carne Asada and a Lime Jarritos at El Puerco Lloron (1501 Western Ave #200).

The Movie: Machete at Regal Meridian 16.

The Screenplate: Machete is an ultraviolent, polarizing action film that sought to tackle the all-too-easy task of putting habitual action-hero cannon fodder Danny Trejo on the safer side of the machine gun. Here, Trejo leads as the eponymous Machete, an ex-federale who must illegally seek refuge in America after his family was murdered by the Mexican drug lord Torrez. Here it should be mentioned that Steven Seagal plays the calmly depraved Torrez so flawlessly it makes one wonder why he ever played good guys.

Based on one of the hilarious fake trailers that made up the intermission for the lukewarm Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino collaboration Grind House, Machete sets up shop right in the middle of the inherently divisive subject of illegal immigration -- finding antagonists in corrupt senators, two-faced businessmen and crime lords who all seek to profit off of the plight of the migrant worker. Although one of Machete's earlier trailers was released as "a message to Arizona" prior to the establishment of the state's controversial immigration reform, the statement is ultimately more of a middle finger than any sort of coherent social commentary.

Machete blasts through its tongue-in-cheek narrative with a merciful bare-minimum of politics. However, that hasn't stopped belligerent scaremongers from claiming Machete will inevitably start a race war, which I really hope won't interrupt my weekend plans.

Any postulation that Machete is some kind of incendiary political screed is undermined by the fact that it's decked from head-to-toe with very intentional silliness. The leitmotif of Seagal's samurai sword is cribbed directly from The Six Million Dollar Man (which nearly turns the senseless beheading of Machete's wife into a comic scene), Danny Trejo gets fresh with nearly every female character in the film and even Robert De Niro gets the laziest racial make-over since John Wayne in The Conqueror. If this movie really incites a race war, I'd hate to see what the Let The Right One In remake is going to do for creepy Swedish children.

Machete's lack of interest in politics coincides with its focus on more visceral, blunt emotions. It seeks to stimulate the gut far more than the brain, constantly mutilating the bodies of its characters in relentless, almost exploratory ways. Machete is a hero dedicated to action in an argument plagued by bureaucratic quagmires and widespread apathy. He is a hero of physicality, for the most part despising guns in favor of the short range of his blade.

Throughout Machete's quest for vengeance, he takes off countless enemy limbs, uses a henchman's large intestine as a grappling hook and quite deftly manipulates a car through torquing one of his namesakes in and out of the spine of its driver. In addition to that we see cell phones hidden and unceremoniously plucked from NC-17 orifices and no small part of Lindsay Lohan's breasts. The human body (both inside and out) is on full display here -- appropriate, as so many issues of the illegal immigration debate stem from the callous treatment of unregistered Mexican immigrants as nothing but cheap labor to be swept under the carpet.

There's only one black mark that really seems to stand out amongst an otherwise enrapturing story of revenge and high emotion: the progression of Jessica Alba's character. Alba plays Santana Rivera, an I.C.E. agent who starts out strong-willed and determined to uphold the law even at the expense of her former countrymen, saying that corruption and loose interpretation of laws is what allowed Mexico to be overrun and eventually controlled by drug lords.

As touched upon before, Rivera stands as probably the sole sympathetic position on the opposing side of illegal immigration, with pretty much every other character who disagrees with amnesty either shooting pregnant women in the head or trying to have sex with their own kids. It let Santana stick out from the deluge of secondary characters that are thrown at the audience to embody an unpopular but ultimately reasonable conflict.

All of the sudden, once she finds a load of dirt on a few American politicians, she pulls a total 180 and is all but calling for illegal immigrants to mount a violent uprising by the end of the film. If that wasn't enough, at the end of the film she straps on some kind of dominatrix ensemble and mounts Machete as they both ride off into the sunset together -- with a pledge that she'll follow him whereever he goes.

I'm not sure if this was one of Robert Rodriguez's winks to the grindhouse tradition where really lazily written characters have somehow become endearing -- but it makes Rivera come off as totally naive and impressionable. The weakness of conviction is especially noticable stacked against Michelle Rodriguez's badass revolutionary leader Luz, whose position never flinches for a moment, even after having an eye shot out. The inexplicable character flip reminds me less of an homage to exploitation films and more of a tacky Hollywood cliche -- where the film probably just wanted sought to set-up another soon-to-be-dead lover to push Machete off the edge for another sequel.

Right next door to GQ's favorite cocktail bar, El Puerco Lloron is another one of Seattle's gems hidden behind the Pike Place Market and nestled along a banal looking set of stone stairs off Western Avenue. Both are worth the hunt.

Although I didn't get a definitive answer, the most common explanation as to why El Puerco Lloron (The Crying Pig) is so sad lies in how spicy Lloron's salsa is. I unintentionally confirmed the possibility of this explanation after absentmindedly scooping a heap of red sauce from the restaurant's diverse but quaintly-labelled salsa bar onto my burrito and nearly weeping once I'd realized my hubris.

Lloron's interior shares Machete's jarring aesthetic, but does so with flamboyance rather than grit. Pink and teal paint dominate concrete walls and thin window panes. The allegiance of Lloron's worn tabletops is split almost equally between Mexican beers Corona and Superior.

Children's soccer jerseys hang from the wall with not even a hint of symmetry. A "fish tacos" sign I'm about 95% sure originated from a Taco Del Mar hangs by the entrance. As a scrappy centerpiece, a Mexican flag decorates the front counter: contoured planks of wood provide its backdrop and colors while assorted soda bottle caps fill the flag's iconography.

The insides of Lloron are a triumph of building a vibrant, resourceful ambience. It just looks like a restaurant you want to support -- underdog chic, if you will.

For the less idealistic, Lloron's food will keep you coming back just the same. Warm, fresh corn tortillas about 3 inches in diameter fit my carne asada like a dream. The aforementioned Salsa del Puerco left my taste buds humbled, but not completely eradicated. The meat was hardly Kobe beef, but considering the heartiness of this cheap meal, I was impressed with how much flavor had remained packed into the thin, stringy slice of meat.

Machete and El Puerco Lloron are both institutions that draw people in with flashy visuals and then work the gut with either building rage against unmistakable villains or assaulting you with delicious but pig-depressingly spicy flavor. By the end, your heart rate has been raised, your stomach acid elevated and an impression may have been made on you that couldn't have been made by any sterile, organized discourse. As any Walt Whitman fan will tell you, the mind is made up of much more than the brain -- and the remainder is what Machete and Lloron seek to satisfy.

 
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