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Bad Ass

2012 | 89 min | R | 1.85:1

Bad Ass


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2 user reviews

Movie appeal




Theatrical release date

 13 April, 2012
 13 August, 2012

Country of origin

 United States



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Screenshots from Bad Ass Blu-ray

Bad Ass Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, April 15, 2012

A few years back, I was assigned to review a parody effort entitled “The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It.” It marked the filmmaking debut of Craig Moss, and it was truly awful. Just a pitiful, exceedingly unfunny piece of junk trying to pass itself off as goofy, edgy satire. After another failed attempt to pants Hollywood successes (last year’s “Breaking Wind”), Moss has dropped his obsession with mimicry to expand content from the internet, perhaps encouraged by the development of the “Fred” franchise beyond its original three-minute blasts of obnoxiousness. Passing on a Maru bio-pic or a Rebecca Black musical extravaganza, Moss has elected to funnel his energy into dramatizing the story of Thomas Bruso. Maybe you already know his work as the “Epic Beard Man.”

In 2010, Bruso, a 67-year-old Vietnam Vet with severe mental disorders, pummeled an African-American fellow on a city bus after the stranger appeared to provoke the hulking homeless man. The ensuing cell phone video was all the rage for a short time afterwards, with countless memes built around Bruso’s antisocial apparel and the implication of street justice. The beaten man’s trembling call for an “amber lamps” was also fodder for persistent internet mischief. Considering the deplorable incident involved illegal activities concerning psychologically unstable men, the premise seems like a natural fit for Moss’s directorial career. And now we have “Bad Ass.”

Frank Vega (Danny Trejo) is a broken Vietnam Vet unable to pull his life together, forced to sell hot dogs on the street to make ends meet. After beating two skinheads on a city bus after they attempted to start trouble, Frank is turned into a folk hero when a video of the incident finds immediate internet popularity. Dubbed “Bad Ass” for his vigilante work, Frank is overwhelmed by his fame, finding housing and a cordial relationship with neighbor Amber Lamps (Joyful Drake) and her foul-mouthed son, Martin (John Duffy). When thugs end up killing his best friend while hunting for a flash drive containing sensitive information about Mayor Williams (Ron Perlman, in a brief cameo), Frank hits the streets to investigate the crime, pushed to violence to defend himself against determined enemies, led by criminal kingpin Panther (Charles S. Dutton).

Taking into account Moss’s previous cinematic efforts and the general senselessness of the source material, it should come as no surprise to learn that “Bad Ass” isn’t a good movie. While definitely a step up for Moss and his pedestrian moviemaking imagination, the feature remains an insipid viewing experience, too reliant on cheap gags and excessive cursing to fill up the screenplay. Although, considering the original viral video’s run time of three minutes, it’s amazing Moss was able to dream up as much superfluous activity as he did.

Much like Trejo’s 2010 starrer, “Machete,” “Bad Ass” aspires to be a cheeky exploitation event, playing up Frank’s fight skill and general urban heroism. He’s a man who wears a fanny pack but can cripple foes in an instant, using his years of combat training and unsavory Los Angeles living to defend himself and others from harm. Admittedly, Trejo is amusing in the lead role, handed a rare shot to showcase more than his usual mustachioed glare. The actor knows what type of bottom-shelf dreck he’s in and plays accordingly, working through stiff choreography and moronic one-liners like a pro, giving Frank a modest sense of humor and credible devotion to loved ones. Trejo’s the best thing about “Bad Ass,” but that’s to be expected in a film this thin. Any morsel of charm is immediately appreciated as the movie tap dances madly to come off ingenious for taking on such a bizarre adaptation challenge.

“Bad Ass” is actually more of a detective movie than a straight actioner, following Frank as he navigates a public transit system to gather clues concerning his friend’s murder. Unfortunately, there’s no twist to the material, as Moss clumsily gives up the root of all evil early in the film, erasing any potential surprise. Instead, the feature sticks to a routine of action, quips, and romance, observing Frank’s attempt to romance Mrs. Lamps, a kindly neighbor accepting the Bad Ass’s protection skills after an altercation with her abusive husband. Moss doesn’t provide enough meat on these bones, trying to play cutesy with genre formula and internet shenanigans while forcing the creation of a cult hero in Frank, who shares Bruso’s disheveled appearance and taste in offensive t-shirts, but lacks the uncontrollable rage and mental fracture that made the clip go global in the first place.

Hoping to increase screen insanity that never quite launched in the first place, Moss goes for a grand finale featuring Frank and Panther dueling with city buses on L.A. streets, smashing up cars and spewing jokes, creating a spike of absurdity in a fatigued picture. “Bad Ass” needed a little more insanity and less self-awareness, but a truly daring sense of invention appears out of Moss’s grasp. Once again, he goes for second-rate laughs on a low budget, depending on the ridiculousness of it all to entice viewers. What started as internet shock value turned into a joke, and that joke has been flattened into a humor-impaired bore in “Bad Ass.”

Starring: Danny Trejo, Charles S. Dutton, Ron Perlman, Richard Riehle, Patrick Fabian, Joyful Drake
Director: Craig Moss

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