When a trailer for Bad Ass hit the web last year, many questioned whether or not it was a hoax – one loosely based on a real altercation between a 67-year-old white man and a 50-year-old black man on an Oakland public bus. The fight was videoed and went viral after being posted to YouTube in February 2010 (“Old Man Beats Up Young Black Guy on Metro Bus”). The film changes the principals’ races and adds characters possibly for the sake of political correctness. The hero is now a Hispanic man who comes to the aid of an African-American man verbally accosted by two white guys of the skinhead variety. Sadly, this film should have been a hoax because there is nothing worth watching here.
Danny Trejo of Machete fame plays Frank Vega, a senior citizen who becomes known as “Bad Ass” after he beat up two skinheads on a public bus and makes the news and YouTube. We see from flashbacks that he served in Vietnam, that his girlfriend got married and had kids while he was oversees, and that he has spent the last 40 years or so serving hotdogs at a corner stand. After his mother dies, he moves into her house next door to a couple and their young son; the wife is abused by the husband and Vega comes to her aide. Note: If the film had a plot, this would be its subplot. Vega’s best friend, Klondike, gives him a flash drive for safe keeping. Then, Klondike is killed by two thugs who are looking for said drive. Vega aims to avenge his best friend’s death and goes on a vigilante spree of sorts.
We find out the flash drive has compromising material on the major (played by Ron Perlman). The major’s underhanded right-hand man is played by Charles Dutton who we know serves the major in an unofficial capacity as his personal enforcer. Panther (Dutton) is a more than a few cards short of a full deck. The last big duel sequence between Vega and Panther involve them both driving buses at one another in a wild game of public transit chicken. Ultimately, Vega prevails with beating Panther’s ass on the side of the street and the major gets arrested for unnamed corruption.
Director Craig Moss has previously made spoofs – one of Apatow-like films and one of the Twilight films. Is Bad Ass a spoof? Is it a revenge exploitation film? At times, it seems to simultaneously be both. It would certainly be easier to critique it if it clearly fell into one camp or the other. Instead, it is just an incredulous piece of nonsensical film-making. It is a shame, because maybe there really is a story to be told about an altercation on a public bus and the men involved. By all means, someone feel free to tell that story and bypass this ridiculous film in the process.