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Bad Ass Movie Review & Trailer

Review Date: August 29, 2012 at 3:00 PM

DVD Release Date: June 5, 2012

Review by Compay for


Starring: Danny Trejo, Charles S. Dutton, Ron Perlman, Joyful Drake.


Bad Ass movie review

It's often said that art imitates life.  Such is the case in Bad Ass, a film loosely inspired by a viral video of a senior citizen fighting on the Oakland, California transit system.


Danny Trejo stars as Frank Vega, his appearance based on that of Bay Area native Tom Bruso, dubbed "Epic Beard Man" by fans of the popular Oakland bus fight video.

Bad Ass tells the story of Frank Vega, a Vietnam War veteran that had been on the short end of the stick for most of his life. Frank returned from the war only to discover that the love of his life had a family with another man, and that his combat injuries prevented him from becoming a police officer. 


After 40 years, Frank is left with little more than a menial job, a faithful dog, and a best friend responsible for saving his life in Vietnam.  A physical encounter with a pair of skinheads on a Los Angeles bus catapults Frank to local fame, earning him the nickname "Bad Ass."  Not long after, the unsolved murder of his combat buddy plunges Frank into a conspiracy of crime and corruption that reaches all the way to the city Mayor's office.


If you're a fan of Danny Trejo, or of vigilante films in general, Bad Ass will appeal to you. Otherwise, it's a low-budget film that suffers from a weak story pieced together with recycled themes from other movies.


Bad Ass is the fourth feature film by Craig Moss, whose previous works include parody movies such as The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It.  The film's visuals are decent, despite Moss' relative inexperience behind the lens, but where the film falters is the story.


The screenplay was written by director Craig Moss, and Elliot Tishman, and their inexperience in this respect shows.  Much of the dialogue for the movie is uninspiring, and Frank Vega's wild goose hunt of those responsible for his friend's murder comes off as filler.  Despite the fact that Bad Ass was filmed on a low budget, it becomes obvious halfway through that the filmmakers were simply trying to dredge up 90 minutes of a finished product.


Possibly because of budget restraints, Bad Ass has an unusual cast in that many of the actors typically work as stuntmen. The majority of the fight scenes involve professional stunt doubles, although it's clear during dialogue that many of these actors aren't particularly experienced when it comes to speaking roles.


The remainder of the cast is rounded out with several popular comedians, and a few seasoned actors from film and television. Danny Trejo, who is normally relegated to "tough guy" roles in film, is given an opportunity to show his more vulnerable side in Bad Ass. Trejo does the best with what he can in the film, but the truth is that he's simply limited by the writing.


Danny Trejo's first leading role was that of Machete, in the 2010 film of the same name. Machete was unapologetic as a B-Movie, but it also demonstrated what Trejo was capable of when dealing with a clever script and a decent film budget.  So while Bad Ass scores points for revealing a kindler, gentler Danny Trejo, the writing simply leaves too much on the table that the ex-convict could have used to make this a cult classic.


Ron Perlman makes a surprise appearance in Bad Ass as a corrupt mayor, although his screen time is limited. The incredibly beautiful Joyful Drake offers a warm performance as Amber Lamps, next door neighbor and love interest of Frank Vega.


Yet the biggest casting highlight of Bad Ass is inarguably Charles S. Dutton as Panther, the Los Angeles crime boss responsible for the death of Vega's friend.  Despite Bad Ass being a low budget film, Dutton doesn't mail this one in. Dutton turns up on the volume on his mischievous performance as one of the film's villains, which makes his inclusion a redeeming element of the movie.


If you're an action junkie, Bad Ass fortunately delivers. Despite knocking on 70's door, Danny Trejo is still able to roll with the punches in this action flick.  Many of the fight scenes are as funny as they are brutal, making up for the sub-par story line.  One of the most memorable scenes in the film pays homage to Scarface, as Frank Vega questions a man while shoving his hand down a running garbage disposal.


The DVD extras include a "making of" featurette for the film, as well as a director's commentary by Craig Moss. The commentary is incredibly insightful as to how Moss had to make do with less for the film with respect to the budget, as well the involvement by the actors in his past movies. 


There are also subtle nods to other movies in Bad Ass (such as Pulp Fiction) that someone would otherwise miss unless they took advantage of the commentary. However I did find it odd that Moss doesn't credit 1988's Red Heat as inspiration for the game of "chicken" played with buses in his own film. The scene is virtually identical to that of Danko and Viktor Rosta in the 80's crime drama, so it seemed unusual that Moss doesn't mention this in the director's commentary.


The bottom line: Bad Ass is definitely worth a rent if you are a fan of Danny Trejo, or enjoy a bone-crunching vigilante flick.  It has its moments of action and humor, and in fairness you can't expect Gran Torino or Man on Fire because of its limited budget.  If you're a casual action fan, you should definitely consider renting it before buying the DVD.







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