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Bad Ass (2012)

August 30, 2012

7/10 Amber Lamps

Gotta love that YouTube generation.

Bad Ass is about a kind, elderly Vietnam vet who lives in a crime-ridden neighborhood that’s only getting worse. One day on his bus ride home, he winds up breaking up a fight between some angry skinheads and a helpless old man. Since skinheads aren’t exactly the most understanding folk, they turn their aggression on the vet instead of going on their merry way. One thing leads to another, and the skinheads get the ass-whooping of a lifetime. Thanks to the apathetic Samaritans on board who figured that filming the incident with their cell phones is about the same as physical intervention, the video of the beat down goes viral and the vet becomes an overnight hero. He doesn’t think much of it at first, but once the violence hits home and the cops won’t do anything about it, our vet straps on his fanny pack and gets to cleaning up the streets old school.

Man, this whole thing just cracks me the hell up. A few years ago, there was this actual viral video that went by the name of “Epic Beard Man.” If you haven’t already seen it, I highly suggest filling that void in your life before reading any further. It’s a three-minute video that shows an escalating confrontation on a city bus between a white, elderly Vietnam vet and a possibly intoxicated African-American named “Pinky.” They exchange words, things get heated, and when he finally gets pushed, the elderly vet ends up cleaning Pinky’s clock. Not all that funny when you think about it, but it’s the details that make this sucker gold.

It’s the Epic Beard Man’s appearance, for starters. Waist-high gym shorts held up by a fanny pack, white beard of epic proportions, and a sky blue shirt that reads “I AM A MOTHERFUCKER” of all things on the back. Then it’s the confrontation. Epic Beard Man moving to a different seat on the bus, Pinky’s friends egging him on by shouting, “Whoop! His! Ass!,” and the complete surprise reaction from everyone on the bus when Pinky gets dropped like wet soap. Then, finally, it’s the aftermath. Epic Beard Man storming away and ranting about his innocence, Pinky’s friends informing him that his face is “leaking,” and, of course, Pinky trying to pronounce the word “ambulance.”

As far as street justice videos are concerned, it’s right up there with that Australian kid who body-slammed his bully at recess. As far as “only in America” internet oddities go, it’s pure gold. This is the kind of stuff my friends and I howl over, the kind of stuff on YouTube that absolutely kills my productivity. Folks, few things are sweeter in life than watching thugs get their due.

Anyway, the point of this story is that writer/director Craig Moss apparently saw the said video and was so profoundly affected by it that he decided to turn it into a full-length motion picture. Apparently he found some financial backers who agreed, which leads us here today. My gut reaction the day my friend sent the trailer to me: “You’ve gotta be kidding.” Upon further thought after watching the trailer three time: “I have to see this.” What can I say, this is the world we live in, and this is my kinda guilty pleasure. Major, major reason why I enjoyed it so damn much.

I gotta say though, props to Moss for approaching this the way he did. From what I understand, the real-life Epic Beard Man is a pretty shell-shocked individual, not the kind of person you’d want driving your story. Anyone who wears a shirt with that written on the back doesn’t strike me as the most personable fellow to sit next to on the bus. So instead of going down the “tortured soul” route, Moss writes him as Frank Vega (aka: “Bad Ass”): the bastard lovechild of Paul Kersey and John Rambo. He’s a kind-hearted veteran who never asked for trouble, but when trouble came knocking, he kicked down the door. Super likable, super easy to root for, and what’s not to love about geriatric justice?

Good call, Moss. Right way to go. Not to mention that Danny Trejo was the absolute perfect guy to play him.

Part of it has to do with the way Epic Beard Man’s sudden notoriety mirrors Trejo’s own fame so late in life (plus his troubled past), but it mostly has to do with the fact that when you have a character named “Bad Ass,” you cast accordingly. This is Trejo’s bread and butter right here: run train on fools, mock them when they’re down, and be the most amicable mother-effer in town just by being you. That’s the formula, he does not disappoint, and it’s great to see him have such a blast with the role. More movies need Danny Trejo in them, and if you’re not on the bandwagon, it’s time to hop on board. Machete Kills can’t get here fast enough.

By now, I’m sure this doesn’t sound like the high-brow darling on the festival circuit that you were all expecting from the title, but that’s okay, it’s on the level. This here is a B-movie all the way and it’s not really trying for more. Low-budget, totally ridiculous at times, and since it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it doesn’t take much for us to follow suit. It’s just R-rated, direct-to-video fun that works far more often than it should. Still doesn’t mean it works entirely though.

The plot’s pretty uneventful as Bad Ass spends a majority of the busing it across town in search of the jerk that killed his friend, and the one-liners in particular don’t always land like they should. They’re the kind of one-liners that made Commando the unintentional comedy classic it is, and there’s no shortage of ’em either. But what saves it is the way the script recovers them. For instance, in what is hands-down the gnarliest scene of the movie, Bad Ass introduces a dude’s left hand to a garbage disposal after the punk refuses to snitch on his boss. As you can guess, the tactic works like gangbusters and the guy gets to snitchin’. So just before Bad Ass leaves the kitchen while his friend’s on the floor staring at his bloody stump, Bad Ass says, “I want to thank you for giving me a hand.” Swing and a miss, cue eye rolls. But then, just as he’s about to walk out, he turns back around and adds, “By the way, you’re wife’s got a message for you. She says to go fuck yourself! I hope you’re a righty.” Too-freaking-good, and Trejo delivers it beautifully.

Whether it’s Bad Ass stealing weed from a guy he just tossed out a window, or his young friend next door freaking out over pie, the script is riddled with stuff like that. Way funnier than I was expecting, had me laughing out loud right up to the end. Also does a surprisingly thorough job of paying tribute to its inspiration, which is extra hilarious considering how little there is to actually honor.

But by the same token, that’s me, the dude who was on board the second he saw the fanny pack on Trejo. If that’s not you, then don’t take my word on this as there’s a really strong chance you’ll find Bad Ass stupid as sin. Seriously, watch the video, then make your decision. Or don’t watch the video and watch Machete instead. After all, the best laughs here are the inside ones, and no one likes being on the outs with these things. Yeah, the target audience is specific, but speaking from experience, it’s a fun one to be part of. This ain’t rocket science, it’s barely long division. Then again, I came this close to giving it an 8, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a passing grade.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Becky permalink
    August 30, 2012 9:11 am

    I loved him in Machete

  2. August 30, 2012 1:08 pm

    I can’t believe this was actually made into a movie.

    • August 30, 2012 1:14 pm

      Me neither, man. Gotta check it out though, if only to compare notes and see if I’m in fact nuts for liking it as much as I did.

      • August 30, 2012 1:15 pm

        Hahaha – I will admit that I’m intrigued. Plus, Danny Trejo is awesome…

      • August 30, 2012 1:17 pm

        Hell yeah he is! Total selling point. I’m tellin’ ya, man, if you dug Epic Beard Man, you’re gonna get a serious kick out of this.

      • August 30, 2012 1:18 pm

        Other than “oooh, he LEAKIN” and “amber lamps” I honestly don’t remember much about the video. Maybe that will play into the film’s strengths…

      • August 30, 2012 1:30 pm

        Hahaha. Oh it does, strangely enough. A true accomplishment on so many profound levels.

  3. August 30, 2012 2:39 pm

    So this is actually pretty good, eh? That YouTube clip cracks me up (dig the “7/10 Amber Lamps”, BTW) and the concept does seem ripe for B-movie action. I’ll check it out… I think I recall seeing it on Netflix Instant.

    • August 30, 2012 2:46 pm

      Haha. It’s good, man. At least for some laughs it is. It’s absolutely on Netflix Instant right now, and I think you have to see it. Please report back once you do, ’cause between this and Breaking Bad, I think we’ve got a really special thing going.

      And gotta love the Amber Lamps.

      • August 30, 2012 2:50 pm

        Hahah, you got it, man. Will do.

  4. Victor De Leon permalink
    August 31, 2012 2:21 pm

    Been in my Queue for a week now. Just moved it up. Thanks for the review!

    • August 31, 2012 6:02 pm

      Thanks and hell yes! Spread the word and let me know what you think.

      • Victor De Leon permalink
        August 31, 2012 7:29 pm

        Thanks, I will bro!

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