Bad Ass is a 2012 action-comedy film. Directed by Craig Moss and starring Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk 'til Dawn), Ron Perlman (Hellboy) and Charles S. Dutton (Alien 3, Gothika). The film was based around the youtube sensation epic beard man, a video which captured senior citizen Thomas Bruso becoming involved in an altercation on a San Francisco bus.
The film opens with the recreation of the epic beard man video in which Frank Vega (Trejo) defends an elderly black man on his local bus by beating up 2 skinheads. As in real life Vega becomes a cult hero and role model as a result of the video whilst simultaneously inheriting a house from his mother. Frank moves in fellow Vietnam vet Klondike and dog Baxter, but just as he starts to settle (after years of post-war alienation) a pair of local thugs gun down Klondike and leave Frank heartbroken. As the local police procrastinate Frank takes the law into his own hands to track down Klondikes killers and avenge his death leading him to unravel a corrupt conspiracy involving Mayor Williams (Perlman) and gang lord Panther (Dutton) along the way.
When I first heard about this film I was really expecting a vigilante exploitation film similar to the excellent Hobo With a Shotgun (2011) however it's a surprisingly genuine drama with real heart, as well as plenty of ass-kicking. You may be wondering how Moss managed to turn a 3 and a half minute youtube clip into a 90 minute film, the answer is very loosely. The only thing the movie has in common is the incident itself and the general setting and character involved, this is to the film's credit as Trejo is able to play a much more sympathetic and likeable character than the real life epic beard man and flesh out the context of the incident. The bus sequence acts as a catalyst to establish the absence of law enforcement which then allows the audience to get behind Frank and his quest for vengeance.
This movie would be absolutely nothing without Trejo, this is one of the finest performances of his prolific career (which to date includes 228 acting credits). Trejo provides the necessary emotional core that elevates the film above senseless action sequences and it's impossible not to like or sympathise with the Frank character. The other thing that surprised me about the movie was how funny and sharp it is, Trejo has the pleasure of delivering some laugh-out-loud Bond-esque one liners such as grinding a man's arm into a garbage disposal then thanking him for "giving him a hand". By using this kind of humour the film is able to remind you that a story involving a senior citizen single-handedly bringing down an organised crime syndicate doesn't necessarily take itself that seriously.
You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a movie featuring the talents of Danny Trejo somewhere along the way but this is truly a role that Trejo has been waiting a long time for. Able to flex his comic muscles at the same time as his regular muscles, Trejo creates a very sweet and likeable character that is even able to portray an (almost) believable relationship with a woman half his age whilst simultaneously beating up half of California in the process. Bad Ass is violent and dramatic but just like the titular character it's young at heart and thoroughly entertaining, the type of old person we'd all like to grow into.
4 Stars ****
What did you think of Bad Ass? What's your favourite Danny Trejo role?