Thursday, June 30, 2022

Chicanonautica: Cartel 2045 Exploits Itself

by Ernest Hogan

The title wasn’t very original, Cartel 2045 (also released as Juarez 2045), but the image of Danny Trejo–star of the Chicano sci-fi classic Machete movies– and a funked-out robot caught my interest. And it was on YouTube for free, so I went for it.

It starts with a quote from Isaac Asimov: “It is not only the living who are killed in war.” Not very profound, but they were at least trying to be literary.

In this 2045, the war on drugs has deconstructed the world. Iran is harassing Mexico, and the U.S. sends a bunch of Marines across the border on a secret mission. Seems a cartel has gotten hold of some combat “droids”-- the product of an evil tech company– and is forcing a kidnapped Mexican scientist to help them. Oh yeah, one of the Marines has a droid-controlling chip in his head, and was in prison, and was told that he could get his freedom if he succeeds and gets back alive.

Again, not very original. 

It takes far too long for Danny Trejo to show up. He does his crowd-pleasing scary Mexican/“bad hombre” act as the Santa Muerte-worshiping cartel boss. Which is what the script called for, but not the sort of Mexifuturismo I was hoping for.

Trejo does end up becoming a supervillain in the end. Too bad there wasn’t more of that stuff. 

It was released in 2017, the Trump years, so the film suffers from schizophrenia. What kind of movie is it supposed to be? Mexsploitation? An attempt to cash in on fears of a border “invasion?” Who was the intended audience? The ever-growing Latinoid wave, or fearful Anglos?

To quote a  token black Marine character: “This is Juarez 2045–technology is a motherfucker.”

Most of the characters are white, and male, and the only women are the scientist’s daughter, some strippers, and what Rush Limbaugh would have called “info-babes.”

It’s a typical war/action flick, shoot’em up stuff with sci-fi trimmings. And the sort of racism that not long ago was considered par for the course. Iran is prounced EYE-ran. Light-skined Mexicans, like the scientist and his daughter, are more “civilized” than the brown cast members.

But oddly enough, there is a lot of untranslated Spanish dialogue, without subtitles, as if it was assumed that everybody would understand it. Spanish swear words pepper the dialogue. The robots bristle with gold decorations, like gangster’s guns, which makes no sense, but looks cool. 

Too bad the Mexican characters are all so pinche stereotypical.

Danny Trejo manages to breathe life into his role. Too bad he isn't in more good movies. 

There’s lots of video game-ish CGI violence, which is the main selling point. After an unsatisfying bloodbath, where just about everybody dies, the chiphead hero who gets to say things like “You can go tell Santa Muerte that she can go fuck herself!” and “Violence solves problems–but it doesn’t always make you feel good.”

And somebody thought that this would make money . . .

Ernest Hogan’s visions of Latinoid futures can be read in stories in Speculative Fiction for Dreamers, and El Porvenir, ¡Ya!: Chitlalzazanilli Mexicatl

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