Hey folks, Valkor here. About two years ago, a video went viral featuring an elderly white male vs. a younger black dude, duking it out on a bus. I shouldn't say they were duking it out because the younger brotha pretty much got his ass handed back to him. Call him an "amberlamps" indeed! Well that video swept the interwebz like wildfire and the older white brotha earned himself the moniker "Epic Beard Man". Here's a lovely breakdown of those events by David Spates (and while you're at it, join his channel. That dude is a funny mothafudger).
What does all of that have to do with TOV's latest MediaView review? So check it, writer/director Craig Moss, whom along with fellow writer Elliot Tishman, actually put out a film that's loosely (and I mean very loosely) based on those events. The film is called "Bad Ass" and it stars none other than Danny Trejo as "Epic Beard Man" himself. Ohhhhh this is gonna be good. Beware spoilers.
Bad Ass centers on Vietnam vet Frank Vega (Danny Trejo), whose day wasn't about to go so well when a couple of skinheads jumped on his bus and started harassing the patrons – particularly an older black gentleman. But Vega steps in, kicking the shit out of the neo-nazis and thanks to someone who actually recorded the events on a cellphone and uploaded it to YouTube, Frank is suddenly an internet sensation and is even given the name "bad ass". Before that time Frank thought of himself as a no body, who gets respect from no one. But when the video goes viral, Frank is thrust into the spotlight, earning respect from his neighbors and even moreso from law enforcement, particularly one Officer Malark (Patrick Fabian), who takes Vega on patrol with him.
Moving forward, Vega's mom passes away and he and bestfriend Klondike (Harrison Page) move into her house that Frank inherited. While the two were drinking and reminiscing, Klondike gives Frank an envelope containing a flash drive that he wants Frank to store in a safe deposit box. Unfortunately for Klondike, he's killed by the guys whom he stole the drive from. And now Frank is looking for justice, but he isn't getting much help from the police. So Frank decides to take matters into his own hands, investigating Klondike's murder and looking for some payback. His investigations will lead him to crime kingpin Panther (Charles S. Dutton) and his connection with the town's mayor (played by Ron Perlman).
While Bad Ass is a story seperate from the "AC Bus Fight", it remains connected to events of the YouTube video, particularly in how Frank is dressed - exactly the same as Epic Beard Man, right down to his fanny pouch. Plus it pulls quotes directly from teh film such as "I need an amperlamps"; what the hell there's even a character named Amber Lamps (Joyful Drake), who also plays Frank's love interest; it's pretty funny stuff.
So how bad ass is "Bad Ass"? Let's find out as we dive into the TOV Breakdown.
Bad Ass isn't all that bad; actually it's quite good! It's reminiscent of Hobo with a Shotgun, without all the campiness and gore (though you do get a nice dose of gore in one scene involving a garbage disposal). The main plot is pretty solid and really takes the whole AC bus fight into unexpected levels of entertaining. Danny Trejo's Frank Vega is one mean old sumbitch whom you should never mess with or else you'll really need an "amberlamps". And Frank shows off that old man strength towards any thug that crosses his path. The fight scenes are nicely choreographed though it's nothing too intense. Still it's better than watching shit just fly by. The acting is pretty decent too; mind you I haven't seen Machete, so this is the first time I'm watching Trejo carry a film, and I have to say I am impressed. Major props go out John Duffy who plays Amber lamp's son Martin. He's like a mix of Huey/Riley Freeman from The Boondocks (He's got Huey's fro and Riley's attitude); he's a definite show stealer! I gotta give kudos to Charles Dutton, who takes part in that climatic bus chase at the end of the film, but overall he performs well. And what about Ron Perlman? Well he doesn't do too much in this film; he's more or less just there. In the end, I was expecting way worse and I walked away enjoying this flick. Great job!
First we have to get this plot hole out of the way and it involves Klondike. There's no setup as to how and why he has this flash drive with this important information on it. He simply has it, gives it to Frank, gets killed over it, and the story commences. Panther sorta explains it at the end, but having a scene showing this important piece of info would have served the film much better. Next up, had the film not taken place in the AC bus fight universe, you literally could have stuck Frank in any given scenario and ended up with the same results – actually, the whole bus fight/bad ass scene could have been scrapped altogether for a tighter revenge story. The whole bus fight scenerio doesn't play an important role but to show that Frank is a bad ass; so all that's really needed was the Vietnam backstory, not the AC Bus Fight. Next the film feels disjointed and all over the place; the story isn't difficult to follow, but it doesn't flow from scene to scene all that well. Oh and this one was a doozy; in one scene when Frank returns home, he's attacked by a guy reminiscent of James Bond villain "Oddjob" – bowler and all. Frank dispatches the guy quickly, but… why is this guy even there? WHO THE HELL IS HE? WHERE DID HE COME FROM? WHY IS HE NEVER SEEN FROM AGAIN? WHY DID I JUST WRITE THAT IN ALL CAPS!!?
You can watch Bad Ass right now on streaming sites such as Vudu, Netflix, and Amazon Instant Video, with a Blu-Ray and DVD release to follow on June 5th. In the end I found Bad ass to be pretty bad ass flick and a lot of fun, albeit a bit uneven. But I think it's worth the price of admission, especially if you're familiar with the Epic Beard man back story. And out of TOV 5 stars, I'm gonna meet Bad Ass half way and give it a 2.5 – not good, not bad, just OK.