I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses

tn_badass2“Let’s go get those sonofabitches.”

BAD ASS 2 is the sequel to a DTV movie I almost forgot about, the one where they bought the life story rights to a mentally ill Vietnam vet who punched out a guy in a racial incident on a bus in a famous Youtube video and turned him into a heroic vigilante played by Danny Trejo. For part 2 they ditch the true story claims, but do have one in-joke reference to the video (a guy pronounces “ambulance” weird). The adventures continue for Trejo’s character Frank Vega, so I guess he’s Buford Pusser for the internet age.

This is three years later and Vega is settled in to a more normal life training boxers, with one particularly promising student Manny (Jeremy Ray Valdez) who is “almost like a son” to him and is about to have his first pro fight tomorrow. This will shock you to your very core and make you question everything you’ve ever believed, but the kid has gotten involved with some drug dealers who say he’s stealing and they murder him but the cops aren’t gonna do anything so Vega has to track them down and, I don’t know, trick them into getting on a bus so he can punch them, or whatever he does.

The difference from the first one (aside from being slightly more jokey) is that now Vega gets a buddy, another old guy so it can be DEATH WISH by way of GRUMPY OLD MEAN. GRUMP WISH, I guess. Or DEATH GRUMP. His boxing gym for some reason has an interior door connecting to a convenience store run by Bernie, a bitter old agorophobe played by Danny Glover (PREDATOR 2). “Two Dannys is better than one,” according to a sticker on the DVD. At first the two Dannys don’t like each other, and they flip each other alot of shit and probly mean every word of it. But then they save each other in a traditional store hold up/alley ambush scene pairing, and this causes them to become partners who bicker LETHAL WEAPON style.

mp_badass2Vega wears a look inspired by the real life bus attacker (beard, baseball hat, t-shirt, cargo shorts, fannypack) while Bernie decides to always wear a green Adidas track suit, white and red pumas and a red, yellow and green headband, and he refuses Vega’s gift of a fannypack. Despite the flashier look he’s not a man of means either – his transportation is a beat up old Bronco he’s had in storage for decades. It doesn’t work, so they have to keep riding the bus while one of Vega’s students works on it.

I do appreciate this series’s idea of a hero with little money or resources. Actually he has a pretty big apartment and that gym now, but one of them gets blown up. He’s also supposed to live a simple life and be resistant to the modern world, so he doesn’t really know how to use the smart phone that the late Manny gave him as a (paid for by drug money) gift. It’s a plot device because he uses apps on it for tracking the bad guys (a little girl has to show him how) and a prop because he sits in the dark drinking and crying and watching a video of a dead guy on it, like you used to have to do on a TV, preferably a big one (or a flickery home projector with fold-up screen before that). But it’s kind of a shitty gift to give the guy – he didn’t need this in his life, now he has to pay for it monthly. I guess he can think about Manny every time he gets the bill.

It’s definitely a cuter movie than what I’m into. For example, the reason Bernie knows how to fight is that he was a hockey player and had to defend himself from racists on the ice. Ha ha, black people don’t usually play hockey. What a fresh and new comedy premise that has never been explored before, other than in THE LOVE GURU. Still, compared to MACHETE KILLS this shit is Michael Mann. The plot and characters are generally taken seriously, allowing Trejo to do a real leading man performance, including falling in love and being sweet and fatherly toward a little girl. Badass juxtaposition: Trejo is good at “playing Barbies.” He’s goofy in the movie but it’s a genuine display of his charisma, showing him as a likable person instead of another one-dimensional killer. That’s one way he’s turned into the modern day Charles Bronson: not many guys that grizzled get to play sweethearts.

Since I mostly forgot the first one I didn’t realize until I re-read my review that in that one he also helped a woman and then fell in love with her and became a father figure to her young kids. I wonder what happened to that family? Hopefully there’ll be a whole series and he’ll leave a trail of abandoned adopted families all across the city.

There’s a part where he beats up Jonathan Lipnicki, but the poor guy is neither recognizable as the nerdy child star he used to be or able to show off that he knows JiuJitsu now. But I guess it’s a step up to be able to play a douchey naked frat dude. Apparently Dante Basco (BLOOD AND BONE, HOOK, the Funk Blast movie ride that used to be at the E.M.P. in Seattle) is in here somewhere as “Gangly Asian,” but I didn’t notice him.

Of course, MACHETE KILLS at least had some inspired absurd ideas in it, as horribly executed as they were. This is pretty much a generic sequence of cliches, while sharing some of the Rodriguez penchant for cheap-ass digital explosions and bullets that deflate any feeling of danger or meat-and-potatoes down-and-dirtiness. Just get some pyrotechnicians on these things and wink a little less and you might get closer to the latter day Bronson vehicle feel you aspire to. You can still have the part where he steals a guy’s grenade and puts it in his fannypack for later. Just get some real fire in the shot when it blows up, that’s all I ask.

On the positive side, there’s a part where one of the drug gang bad guys says to “Put Drake in the sky” and it cuts to some mountain goats and a helicopter roaring over a mountain. I mean, a fake helicopter, but they have a real one in other shots. You start to appreciate basic stuff like that these days.

In some of the early scenes I thought writer/director Craig Moss had improved his chops since part 1, but that didn’t last. He just shoots everything basic and competent, that’s it. I’m not gonna bother with an Action Comprehensibility Rating on this one – the fights are perfectly understandable but just rudimentary cowboy movie or syndicated action TV type shit.

A better score would go a long way toward creating some authenticity. The Mexican songs used in some scenes seem a little cheeky, but work better than the cheeseball sampler cues.

There’s not much more to say about this. It’s probly more watchable than most Danny Trejo vehicles, but if they make a part 3 (maybe throw in a character based on this guy) I probly will have forgotten about both of these movies by the time it comes out. But people always say “I’m surprised you didn’t mention such-and-such part” on my reviews (well, I can only mention so many parts) so I think I should describe the very end of this movie, which is more crazy than the rest of it.

First of all, they kill the bad guy, played by WISHMASTER star Andrew Divoff, and it seems to assert that since Bernie helped kill him he can claim his liver for a needed transplant. In my opinion, this is not a viable legal theory. Keep in mind, this takes place in California, not Florida.

Second, the very last thing in the movie: the mother of the dead boxer and the little girl has really fallen for Vega, and they’re at her house at night about to kiss, but suddenly they’re interrupted by Bernie farting while looking for some pie in the refrigerator, and then a slutty college girl that he had a conversation with at the beginning of the movie comes up behind him and offers to give him a different kind of “pie.”

Huh.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, April 10th, 2014 at 12:32 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

23 Responses to “Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses”

  1. Danny Glover! what are you doing in this?

  2. Why isn’t anyone doing a remake of DEATH WISH with Trejo as Kersey? Abel Ferrara should direct it to capture that sleazy 70’s New York feel.

    And they should KEEP his vocation as an architect for Trejo. Hell, it worked for Bronson, the man’s man. Unfortunately, wearing a fanny-pack as in BAD ASS does not make for a good Bad Ass Juxtaposition. It’s just lame. Now if he hadda been a florist, well maybe…

    BAD ASS part 1 was a pretty bland affair. It felt like a missed opportunity to give Trejo some #genuine# hard-core badass credibility.

  3. Majestyk – you’re a Brooklyn-ite, right? You need to write a motherfuckin DEATH WISH rebootquel! Bronson style, with an Outlaw Vern sense of bad ass intelligence. Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it?

  4. I was actually just thinking that DEATH WISH would work as a TV show. That kind of double-life antisocial fantasy fulfillment narrative has proven really successful in the long form. In the first season, he loses his family and makes his first tentative kills. At the end of the season finale, he finds out who killed his wife, setting up the revenge saga of the second season. Then in the third he’s attracted the attention of the criminal underworld, who come to get counter revenge on him and make us doubt the viability of the eye for an eye model. Then the fourth goes big and he sets his sights on organized crime and, in the fifth and final season, on the corrupt city government itself. You’d have lots of time to see the transformation from bleeding heart liberal to dead eyed executioner and hen hopefully to a full fledged revolutionary. It could be great. And it would feel like less of a rehash to tell the story in an expanded fashion that can really explore the socioeconomic issues and not just pay lip service to them the way every vigilante movie ever has.

    I think it should star somebody not initially badass to make the transformation more startling. I’m thinking Guy Pearce. That guy needs a good role.

  5. Yeah, I seriously think in today’s anti-hero TV landscape, a DEATH WISH TV show would work. (Although I’m scared that if HBO or STARZ do it, they would spend as much time on rape scenes as certain parts of the movie series.)

  6. On a different topic, was I the only one who couldn’z access this site for two days, because it made the browser crash so hard, that it made the whole computer freeze? I’m glad it works again.

  7. No, that happened to me too. I was about to bring in my computer for a checkup when I realized what was happening. I trusted you, Vern!

  8. Great concept Majestyk. The TV medium is the way to explore those socioeconomic issues, as in HBO’s THE TV-SHOW-WE’RE-NOT-ALLOWED-TO-TALK-ABOUT-UNTIL-VERN-SEES-IT-AND-REALISES-WHAT-HE’S-BEEN-MISSING-OUT-ON.

    Personally I would love to see a return to the simplicity of “lip-service”, and a fuckin .44 Magnum.

    So I look forward to both!

  9. I’m down with that, too. I think I’d just rather see more DEATH WISH ripoffs that put their own little spins on the template and not another retread of the same story with the same characters. The only problem with the original DEATH WISH, in my opinion, is that you just can’t see Bronson as a pussy at the beginning of the movie. He brings too much innate strength just by being himself. The first choice for the role was Jack Lemmon, a more everyman type of guy who could show that, if pushed hard enough, anyone can become a killer. Bronson looked like he was just waiting to pop a motherfucker from the first frame. That worked great in the sequels, where Kersey’s a one-man army, but a TV show would give a less likely badass actor a chance to really explore the transformation that occurs when a man loses his soul to violence and then tries to use his own darkness for good, with mixed results. Maybe even somebody schlubbier and more character actor-y than Guy Pearce, who’s a great actor but still a leading man type. Sadly, Phillip Seymour Hoffman would have been awesome. He could play both the neurotic milquetoast Manhattanite and the scary-as-fuck death-bringer, and all the varying shades and colors in between. He was the last guy you could ever picture just straight pulling out a .38 and blasting you, and that’s what Paul Kersey should be.

    If they do remake DEATH WISH as a movie, though, there’s only one choice for star: Werner Herzog. A sensitive, philosophical, artistic soul becomes a blunt instrument of vengeance. Tell me it wouldn’t work.

  10. Inspired casting right there.

    And the straw that breaks the camels back is when the home-invaders take a baseball bat to his terrarium, slaughtering his beloved iguana’s.

  11. Guy Pearce would be awesome in that role. I’ve loved him since the first time I saw him in LA CONFIDENTIAL. He won me over with the scene where (SPOILER?) he realizes the Captain killed Kevin Spacey’s character and reacted with only the smallest of muscle twitching, yet it spoke volumes to the viewer.

  12. “Death is the inevitable outcome of all existence. All of us, every living molecule, locked in a rapidly accelerating spiral of decay and entropy that will either destroy us in the heat storm of friction and collision, or cast us out, cold and alone, into the unfathomable emptiness of the void.”

    *cocks pistol*

    “But you first.”

    *pulls trigger*

  13. Werner’s playing himself, obviously.

  14. Was it only after I added that Niketown ad? I might’ve fucked something up when I did that.

  15. I think the ad wasn’t there yet. It does work now, though and the first thing I saw after I could access this site again, was your Niketown banner. So maybe adding it saved it? I don’t know.

  16. Yeah, I didn’t notice the ad until after it stopped acting wonky. But my computer never shut down or froze. It just took for-fucking-ever to load, and when I tried moving around on the page it told me there was some script that wasn’t responding. I told it to stop trying to run it, and it seemed okay. Maybe that was the ad. I dunno.

  17. Vern, same as Maggie, with the script. I thought it was related to adding Niketown to the Books By Vern Amazon window, since that was the only change I noticed when the problems started. Only lasted for a day.

  18. Mr. Majestyk – wasn’t Carnahan going to make a Death Wish movie with Frank Grillo but the studio wanted Bruce Willis instead?

  19. There was also the time Stallone asked the Newsies if he should remake it. They managed to dissuade him within a few hours. For once, their unrelenting negativity did some good in the world.

  20. The Original Paul

    April 12th, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    “On a different topic, was I the only one who couldn’z access this site for two days, because it made the browser crash so hard, that it made the whole computer freeze? I’m glad it works again.”

    Wait, THAT’S what that was?

    Holy crap! I was wondering why Firefox kept complaining about a “script”. Thought I was getting some kind of ad-based malicious downloader or something.

  21. They are making a third one. BAD ASSES ON THE BAYOU.

  22. 10 bucks says they turn it into a primetime comedy TV series, which is what Bad Ass 1 felt like.

    With a new Bad Ass adventure every week!

  23. This was passable yet forgettable, kinda like the first one (which I don’t remember much of, but I know I liked it more). There’s still a decent amount of heart and some funny parts, but minus a few points for the love interest not being as charming or as likable as the lady in the first one. But add a few points for Glover’s love interest, who is ridiculously attractive, like a cross between Jennifer Lawrence and Blake Lively. (The final scene Vern describes in the review is made even more silly by the wacky freeze-frame ending and the smoove jam song over the closing credits)

    Also, it must be noted that where Bad Ass 1 re-used the bus chase from Red Heat to save money, Bad Ass 2 re-uses the helicopter/jeep chase from Narrow Margin. I’m actually looking forward to guessing what scene will be recycled in part 3.

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