Bad Ass (2012)
By: Devon B. on May 8, 2013 | Comments
Pinnacle Films | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 86 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Craig Moss
Starring: Danny Trejo, Charles S. Dutton, Ron Perlman, Patrick Fabian, Joyful Drake, John Duffy
Screenplay: Craig Moss, Elliot Tishman
Country: USA
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In the end credits of Bad Ass it says the film is based on Thomas Bruso. I had no idea who Bruso was so I looked him up. He's better known as Epic Beard Man, some old guy that got in a fight with a slightly younger guy while on a bus. The fight was filmed, and Epic Beard Man's throwdown went viral. Basing a movie on this guy explains star Danny Trejo's attire and beard, but I'm not sure that Bruso really is a hero. He's more just some dude who got in a fight, and since the video doesn't show which of the men involved was the initial provoker, I didn't get the impression that Bruso was a hero, and he may even just be some dickhead. Not wanting to leave room for doubt in the minds of the audience, in the film version Trejo is definitely someone that stands up for truth, justice and the right for old people to slap neo-Nazis.

The titular bad ass is a Vietnam vet that struggled to readapt after coming home. Several years after his return, he's still struggling, and that's when a bus ride gets out of hand. Some jerks try to hassle an old man when they board the bus, but Trejo's having none of that and shuts 'em down. Trejo's intervention is filmed and he becomes an internet hero, and it seems his entire life is turning around. During the transitional phase one of his friends gets shot, and Trejo decides that since the cops aren't doing enough about it for his liking, he'll try once again to take matters into his own hands.

On paper a movie about Trejo as a bad ass vigilante sounds like a great idea, but Bad Ass strangely lacks verve. There's no doubt that Trejo is bad ass, so it's not his fault, but the film is too unsure of itself to ascend to the heights of awesomeness one's mind conjures when hearing Danny Trejo's starring in a movie called Bad Ass. The movie is too self aware, so it doesn't work as a straight revenge/vigilante movie, but it isn't fun enough to justify its often irreverent tone. The filmmakers probably needed to sway the film more towards a satire or make it more serious. The lead character is stuck in the 70s, so maybe this would've worked better as a gritty 70s style thriller. I would've been more interested in that, because if the film had gone the more satirical route it might be hard to distinguish from Machete. Some of the humour in Bad Ass does work, like how our bad ass is a bus boy, but sometimes the humour is forced and obvious, which is probably another reason I would've preferred it to be more serious. The film does try to show some real life issues, like Trejo's character's failure to reassimilate into society, but it also glosses over a major concern for any vigilante: blowback. There are violent repercussions from Trejo's bus beatdown, but instead of going for an impact, the sequence is just used as a setup for a cheap gag. There's some other nonsense, particularly during the finale, that would be more at home in a send up, but Bad Ass is just not fun enough to suite its often jokey tone.

It's a shame that Bad Ass isn't more solid, because it has a great cast. Trejo is convincing as a tough older gent that can lay the smackdown, and he's joined by Charles S. Dutton as the bad guy that I guess represents the other dude from the real life bus fight. I'm guessing that since Dutton requests help in a way that's taken almost directly from the viral video. While his presence doesn't always guarantee a good movie, Dutton is a good actor that I've liked ever since Roc (even though I didn't really like the show itself), so I enjoyed seeing him square off against Trejo. Also on hand is Ron Perlman, but he's completely wasted and given virtually nothing to do. One bad bit of casting was Trejo's love interest, played by a woman that could be his granddaughter. I found my suspension of disbelief impossible to maintain during their courting, even if the guy is meant to be a local celebrity.

I may have been hoping for too much with Bad Ass, but all it did was whet my appetite for a repeat viewing of the far more entertaining Machete.
The Disc
Bad Ass is a new flick, so it's no surprise that the film looks clear, clean and sharp. There's a little edge enhancement and a bit of black crush, but otherwise this transfer is good. The only major flaw is with some terrible looking slow motion footage, but that appears to be a problem with the source material, not the transfer. The film isn't one that requires a large soundscape most of the time, so the 5.1 Dolby Digital track doesn't have a lot of opportunity to use the surround sound until the finale. Things do get more dynamic during the climax, but before that there wasn't much of note. At least the dialogue was clear. The DVD comes with trailers for Screwed, Retreat, The Hammer (not about Fred) and Pick Pocket. There's also a real extra in the form of a commentary with writer/director Craig Moss and composer Todd Haberman. They talk about style choices, the film's origins and offer other little bits of trivia, but they also point out the obvious at times and there're some gaps in the track. In the end, the track was not very engaging, much like the film itself.
The Verdict
Bad Ass should've been a new benchmark in vigilante cinema, but instead it's just disappointing. It's not a crashing bore, but it should've been so much more than what it is, so now it's just another film for the missed opportunity file.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
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