aka Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses
D: Craig Moss / 91m
Cast: Danny Trejo, Danny Glover, Andrew Divoff, Jacqueline Obradors, Ignacio Serricchio, Melany Ochoa, Patrick Fabian, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Jonathan Lipnicki, Leon Thomas III
Three years on from the events of Bad Ass (2012), Frank Vega (Trejo) is mentoring young boxers at a community centre. One of his young proteges, Manny Parkes (Valdez), is poised to turn professional but has gotten mixed up with a drug dealer called Adolfo (Serricchio). Manny steals from Adolfo and is killed in retaliation. At first Frank leaves it to the police to investigate Manny’s murder, but when Manny’s mother, Rosaria (Obradors) asks him to look into it the obligation he feels convinces him. Suspecting another of the young boxers at his gym must know something, he trails them to an apartment block where the young boxer, Tucson (Thomas III), collects a packet of drugs from one of the rooms. Frank busts down the door, beats up the muscle, and burns the drugs.
Frank lives next door to a convenience store run by Bernie Pope (Glover), a grumpy old man with a serious liver problem that has left him with around six months to live. When Frank is ambushed by some of Adolfo’s goons, Bernie comes to his aid. Frank tortures one of the goons and learns about Adolfo’s involvement; hearing about Manny, Bernie offers to help. Despite warnings from Officer Malark (Fabian), Frank and Bernie track down a lead that takes them to a frat house and another of Adolfo’s street dealers, Hammer (Lipnicki). Hammer, encouraged by having a fan pressed against a tender part of his anatomy, tells Frank where Adolfo lives. Frank goes there and confronts Adolfo who ends up with an ice pick in his right eye; he also tells Frank that it was his father, an Argentinian diplomat called Leandro (Divoff) who ordered the hit on Manny. Frank and Bernie carry out a citizen’s arrest on Leandro but his diplomatic immunity means he’s released the same day.
Following Leandro’s release, Frank and Bernie trail him to a meat packing plant where they find out how the drugs are being smuggled into the country. They are captured, and Leandro tells Frank that he’s going to retaliate for Adolfo’s losing an eye by taking Rosario and her daughter, Julia (Ochoa), away from him. Frank and Bernie escape but are too late to stop Adolfo from kidnapping Rosario…
As a low budget follow-up to an equally low budget original, Bad Asses retains the first movie’s sense of its own absurdity and refuses to take itself seriously, eliciting groans throughout and an equal measure of affection. Both movies are cut from the same template, with an Eighties action vibe that is reflected in the fight sequences and the way in which the script connects scenes with only the merest nod to logical continuity. It’s easy to criticise a movie like Bad Asses but it’s mostly a pastiche of the kinds of movies that starred Chuck Norris or Michael Dudikoff, unrepentant in its paper-thin characterisations and their flimsy motivations, the meagre plotting, the dreadful picture car filming, the perfunctory nod to a romantic angle for the main character, and a villain who is both suave and slimy at the same time. And all wrapped up with a knowing, almost winking at the camera kind of humour that offsets the predictable nature of the script and stops the movie from being completely ridiculous.
Thanks to returning director Moss and his star, Bad Asses works for the most part and is genuinely entertaining. Watching Trejo and Glover riffing off each other is great fun, and even if they are “too old for this shit” their obvious enjoyment at working together boosts the movie immeasurably. The retooling of the plot of Lethal Weapon 2 isn’t as off-putting as it might seem, and while some moments seem misguided or out of place – Bernie chatting up a young girl who’s only wearing her underwear, Adolfo surviving having the ice pick go through his eye and into his brain, Frank taking out a helicopter with a grenade flung from a moving car – the good will the rest of the movie engenders allows these moments the equivalent of a free pass. (Even so, it’s inevitable the movie will have its naysayers but they won’t be picking up on the clear love of the genre the filmmakers have, and the necessity of embracing its faults as well as its good points.)
Rating: 6/10 – with Bad Ass 3 already in the can (and reuniting Moss, Trejo and Glover), Bad Asses is an unexpectedly enjoyable second outing for the vigilante pensioner; funny, derivative, good-natured, improbable, knowing, problematic – the movie is all these and more, and proof that some movies can be all the better for being uneven… but only when that was the intention.