Is Danny Trejo’s “Bad Ass” Any Good?
Danny Trejo’s Mexploitation flick Machete was one of my favorite films of 2010—no joke—so I had high hopes for Bad Ass, another revenge movie that casts the pock-marked cult star as an unlikely action hero. This time, he’s Frank Vega, a Vietnam vet who becomes a viral vigilante after a video of him beating down a couple of skinhead punks hits YouTube. But as much as I wanted to love Bad Ass, it’s just plain bad (and not in a good way).
Blame for this goes not to Trejo, who’s certainly earned his badass street cred as a real-life San Quentin ex-convict, but to writer-director Craig Moss. He must’ve identified with Vega’s story (the film is supposedly inspired by true events) since he became a kind of overnight star himself in the pre-YouTube era when widely circulated VHS copies of his 1998 short-film spoof Saving Ryan’s Privates briefly made him a hot property in Hollywood. He’s since made two little-seen feature-length film parodies, the Apatovian satire The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It and the Twilight sendup Breaking Wind (fka Full Mooned).
With Bad Ass, Moss can’t seem to decide if he’s making a slap-shtick farce or a straight-faced homage to ’70s vengeance flicks like Death Wish and Rolling Thunder, both of which are referenced (Trejo mangles one dirtbag’s hand in a garbage disposal, like William Devane did in Thunder). Trejo could handle either—he’s done comedy (Modern Family) as well as drama (Sons of Anarchy) with equal dexterity, but Moss refuses to pick a tone and stick with it.
A pair of Trejo’s SOA costars, Ron Perlman (as a corrupt mayor in cahoots with a deadly street gang) and Winter Ave Zoli (as a masseuse with bad taste in men), have no better luck trying to make sense of Moss’ messy script. Only Charles S. Dutton—like Trejo, a real-world ex-con—seems to be having any fun as the movie’s chief thug. But the novelty of watching two sixtysomethings beating the crap out of each other quickly wears off.
Trejo devotees needn’t wait long for another fix: The hardcore character actor has at least a dozen more films in the pipeline, including Vengeance (costarring 50 Cent) and the sequel Machete Kills. As for Bad Ass, which hits theaters this weekend and is already available on Amazon Instant Video, file it next to Hobo with a Shotgun as grindhouse wannabes that badly miss the mark.
What’s your favorite Danny Trejo movie? From Dusk Till Dawn? Con Air? Death Wish 4: The Crackdown? Don’t be a punk—post a comment!