D: Craig Moss / 85m
Cast: Danny Trejo, Danny Glover, John Amos, Loni Love, Jimmy Bennett, Carol Sutton, Sammi Rotibi, Davi Jay, Judd Lormand, Jeff Pope
Pensioners with attitude Frank Vega (Trejo) and Bernie Pope (Glover) are still the best of friends and still annoying each other. When their friend Carmen (Love) calls to say she’s getting married, and she wants both of them to come to Baton Rouge for the wedding – with all expenses paid by her father Earl (Amos) – they head on down for the festivities. They meet Earl’s wife, Lois (Sutton), Carmen’s brother Ronald (Bennett), and Carmen’s wheelchair-bound fiancé, Geoffrey (Rotini). But on their first night at Earl’s mansion home, intruders break in and kidnap Carmen, despite Frank’s best efforts to stop them. The next day, Earl receives a ransom demand for $5 million, due in thirty-two hours.
The local chief of police, Broussard (Jay) takes charge of the investigation, but he’s aware of Frank and Bernie’s notoriety and warns them against getting involved. In no time at all they ignore Broussard’s advice, and using a clue found by Ronald, track one of the gang of intruders to a local club. There they force him to tell them the name of another gang member, Landry (Pope), who is more “connected”. While Carmen remains imprisoned in an abandoned factory, and her family struggle to deal with her kidnapping, Frank and Bernie ignore a further, more serious warning from Detective Williamson (Lormand) and track down Landry who tells them where Carmen is being held. At the same time, Carmen manages to escape from the room where she’s been imprisoned. She ends up in an office where she’s able to fax her location to the police.
However, the fax is intercepted by one of Broussard’s deputies who takes it to his chief. On their way to the abandoned factory, Frank and Bernie are forced to stop by uniformed police. Broussard is with them, and it becomes clear that he’s behind the kidnapping. He knocks Frank unconscious; when he comes to he and Bernie are on their way to an airstrip. Broussard’s plan is to have them thrown out of a plane to their deaths. But Frank and Bernie have other ideas…
The first Bad Ass movie, released in 2012, was based on the real-life exploits of Thomas Bruso. It was an uneven mix of wish fulfilment action beats and cornball humour that did enough to warrant a sequel, Bad Asses (2014). This upped the humour, thanks largely to the involvement of Glover, and showed that there was mileage to be had from a pensioner – or two – who wasn’t prepared to take any shit. With no sign that the series is stopping any time soon, and with the budget getting bigger with each instalment, Bad Asses on the Bayou shows the series stretching credibility and common sense in its efforts to provide a good time.
Lacking a cohesive script, the movie opts to play out like a Seventies low budget actioner, with dreadful leaps in both narrative and characterisation, and with writer/director Moss clearly having assembled his script from the bottom of the bin marked “clichés”. So we have Frank and Bernie bickering in a bank and foiling a robbery. We have Frank and Bernie taking out purse thieves at a gas station (actually well choreographed). We have Frank dispensing wisdom to a bullied Ronald, Carmen played as a sassy, high-energy stereotype, Bernie hitting on women around three times younger than he is, and the odd moment of sadistic violence (Frank pushing Landry’s face into a fat frier). And to cap it all we have intermittent scenes where Bernie’s recent liver transplant causes him pain at the wrong time (but which is never developed any further than that).
There’s also some poorly executed attempts at humour – Bernie: “I ain’t running” – and Moss hasn’t decided if he’s spoofing his own creation yet, but with Trejo’s performance bordering on tired already, and Glover playing Bernie exactly as he did in Bad Asses, the series is in danger of disappearing up its own absurdity. It’s not enough this time round for the movie to flirt with plausibility and then leave it high and dry like a forgotten bride at the altar, or for it to include moderately well executed action sequences that show off where the bulk of the budget has been used. Instead of using the extra money to strengthen, expand or add depth to the original concept, Moss and co have taken Frank and Bernie out of their comfort zones and relocated them to the Deep South – and fallen back on the same approach they used in the first two movies, thus making the change of scenery no real change at all (and Frank and Bernie never actually spend any time “on the bayou”).
With Baton Rouge proving a poor, unfriendly backdrop to the main storyline – a short montage of the sights of Baton Rouge shows very little that could be considered attractive about the area – and a visual style that highlights blandness each time, Bad Asses on the Bayou is the least interesting of the series to watch in terms of its look and feel, and is a movie propagated with too many similar-sounding rap songs. If there is to be another Bad Ass movie, and this one promises a next instalment titled Bad Asses in Bangcock (yep, that’s how they’ve spelt it), then let’s hope that Moss works from someone else’s (better) script, and Trejo and Glover are given more to do than beat people up and make cheap wisecracks.
Rating: 4/10 – the law of diminishing sequels kicks in with a vengeance, leaving Bad Asses on the Bayou looking and feeling like a half-finished idea that sounded good at the time; with a sense that everyone involved is treading water, or just going through the motions, keeping the series going may not be the best way forward for both the makers and for future audiences.