December 14, 2013

Movie Review: Bad Ass (2012)

There is an interesting subset of the “based on a true story” movies. Rather than a person, or time period, or some other broad event, there are a few that take a small incident and build around that. This would include movies like Compliance and Stuck, both interesting films that you should look into. The latest entry to this subset of movies is called Bad Ass. These are movies that take headlines and events and build a movie around them. They do not purport to be entirely true, instead they use the real elements as a launching point for their story.

The real incident happened a few years ago. An elderly man got into an altercation with a much younger guy. The younger guy through a punch and the old man proceeded to make quick work of his junior. The video became a viral sensation. Then, for some reason, it was decided to take this incident and flesh it out into a feature. I do not know why, it is not exactly a life altering story or involves necessarily interesting people, but there you have it. Now, whatever their reasons, we have Bad Ass.

Bad Ass uses the viral incident as its core nugget. It is the little bit around which a movie was built. It takes the singular incident and uses it to build an interesting story about a lonely man, a Vietnam vet whose life has been stuck in neutral as the world has moved on and left him behind. Of course, this bis incident changes his life forever.

In the case of this movie, the titular Bad Ass is none other than actual bad ass Danny Trejo as Frank Vega. We are introduced to him sitting on the bus accompanied by some voice over. We are given a quick overview of his life to that point. We learn of his humble childhood, meeting the pretty girl, going off to war in Vietnam where he spends a hard seven years, before coming home and finding he has nowhere to go. His girlfriend has moved on and no one will hire him due to his lack of experience. We then move to the present where Frank has a hot dog cart, which, like everything else, is being left behind as people now flock to the food truck across the street.

Anyway, Frank gets into the scrape on the bus, taking down a couple of thugs and thus becoming an overnight sensation. Then we move into the further stories of Frank. We witness his best friend get murdered, and this is what sets Frank off, much like Charles Bronson in Death Wish, Wherever Frank goes, violence follows. He steps up where the police don't and investigates his friends murder, beating up all manner of thugs along the way.

Bad Ass is not exactly a great movie, but I found it seriously entertaining. This is the sort of movie that lives and dies based on its main character. Danny Trejo breathes life into this thing and is seriously entertaining. He brings a lot of menace when he wants to, but he has a lot of heart as well. He is a very likable guy and he is very easy to get behind. It is fun watching him beat the crap out of people, but it is also nice to see that there is more to him than the Bad Ass, he is a man struggling with his lot in life, dealing with decades of sadness, years of finding where he belongs.

There really isn't a whole lot to the movie. It has a straightforward narrative and doesn't have any surprises. I do like that they were able to take that video clip and were able to turn it into a full length movie. Still, the bottom line is without Danny Trejo this movie would have been nothing. Watch it for the great Trejo! (note: there is a sequel for next year called Bad Asses that sees Trejo return to the role with Danny Glover).


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