Lady Gaga: From Silver Sequin to Silver Screen

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
August 10th, 2012

Lady Gaga: From Silver Sequin to Silver Screen

-- Lady Gaga is to the early 21st century what the pianist Liberace was to the mid-20th: outlandish, outrageous and sensational. Venturing into previously unknown frontiers of make-up and wardrobe-the dress made of meat, for example-she attracts an audience that wants a spectacle as much as a concert. From the premier of her debut album in 2008, the singer has dominated the pop music and video industries, earning two Grammy Awards and 13 MTV Video Music Award nominations. Her initial album, "The Fame," yielded an unprecedented four hits to reach the top of the charts. Two record-breaking albums later, Gaga (born Stephanie Germonatta) finds herself ranked seven among Forbes magazine's list of the 100 most powerful women.

It should surprise nobody, then, that this extravagant performer should make her big-screen debut in a film directed by Robert Rodriguez. A native of San Antonio, Texas, Rodriguez sets many of his works in the American southwest and Mexico. Not content to make traditional Westerns, the director is known for introducing the supernatural to the dry, dusty border town landscapes. His 1996 "From Dusk to Dawn," for example, has on-the-run desperados doing battle with Mexican vampires. At the same time, Rodriguez can be versatile, directing the family-friendly "Spy Kids" series of movies, all of which earned the acclaim of audiences and critics alike. In 2005, Rodriguez made another artistic pivot with "Sin City," an extremely erotic and violent work of animation.

Clearly Robert Rodriguez is not content to be pigeonholed into one genre. Proving this in 2010, he came out with "Machete," an action exploitation film, i.e. a cinematic work designed to attract an audience with explicit sex, brutal violence and unconventional-perhaps freakish-characters. Films of this sort are often called "B-movies" because of their low budgets and deliberate omission of any moral or ethical theme. "Machete" is the name and story of an ex-officer of the Mexican Federal Police (and the character actually premiered in "Spy Kids"). While working to find a kidnap victim, Machete is double-crossed by a superior who is in league with a drug lord. After the kingpin murders his family, Machete-who manages to survive-flees to Texas to make a living and a life. Even north of the border, he falls victim to corruption, as he is co-opted into an assassination plot against a state legislator. He later learns that the whole event is staged by the politician to gain public support, while Machete is framed as an attempted murderer. The stage is then set for non-stop action as Machete seeks to evade, and then seek vengeance against, this crooked network of thugs. Having captured the heart of a U.S. immigration enforcement agent in the process, Machete ends his ordeal as a legal resident of the United States.

"Machete Kills" is the sequel to this story. Not only is Machete (played by Danny Trejo) in the country legally, he now has the confidence of the President of the United States (played by Charlie Sheen). This time he must go back to Mexico to dispatch a drug cartel boss who has a very large missile aimed at the United States. To complicate matters, an international arms dealer turns out to be the mastermind behind this destructive weapon. It is in this plot that Lady Gaga debuts as La Chameleon. While keeping the role of this character under wraps, the film's marketing staff did publish a poster of her: an alluring assassin toting a smoking gun and wearing a wolf as a stole. It is unknown whether she is on the side of good or of evil.

This may or may not be a good opportunity for Gaga. If her desire is to expand her artistry to drama and pursue a career in acting, she could do worse than this exploitation film. She plays this role opposite the likes of Jessica Alba and Cuba Gooding, Jr. Other cast members include Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson (both of whom may be taking any work available). Although it is not Shakespeare, "Machete Kills" allows Gaga to create a plausible character that producers, writers and directors can see and evaluate. On the other hand, her goal may be to generate more publicity. She hardly needs more, and Rodriguez' exploitation films are not exactly box office sensations.

All things considered, Lady Gaga may be on the verge of a career breakthrough with "Machete Kills." The general public might just ignore this movie. Yet, the Hollywood establishment may use it as a screen test. If she passes, Gaga may have to limit her presence on the concert stage to spend more time in the soundstage.