There’s an old cliché that states that a gun shown in the first half of a movie will inevitably go off in the second and when you’re talking about Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses, gunplay in both halves is inevitable.
Yet (and far more creatively), when the perpetually fanny pack clad bad ass senior citizen played by Danny Trejo in the first film builds a child a secret door to heighten her hide and seek skills in the sequel, you just know that hiding place will come in particularly handy in the film’s final confrontation of hard-hitting criminals versus card-carrying members of the AARP.
Essentially the sequel stays true to the same formula established in the first movie about a rough and tough but down on his luck Vietnam veteran named Frank Vega (Trejo) who gains unexpected notoriety after cell phone video of him taking on a group of young skinheads terrorizing an old man on a bus goes viral.
If the premise sounds vaguely familiar, that’s probably because writer/director Craig Moss sought inspiration for his hero from the real-life elderly subject of a similar rapidly shared online video.
Of course, that’s where fact ended and Bad Ass fiction began.
Having been forced out of his forty year business operating a hot dog cart due to the sudden popularity of food trucks in the first movie, shortly after footage of his good deed on the bus went viral, the legally disabled Vega found himself venturing into vigilantism after his best friend and fellow veteran was murdered in cold blood.
With the police unable or unwilling to crack the case, Vega took it upon himself to investigate. Successfully unraveling a major political corruption scandal, Vega was named an honorary community police officer before the sequel checks back in with him three years after the events of the previous installment occurred.
Now running a recreational center, we find Vega teaching young men to box while trying to instill some strong morals in them at the same time.
When his favorite and most promising student is found dead in the midst of what appears to be a drug deal gone wrong, Vega once again finds he has no choice but to track down those responsible, regardless of how high up the chain of command the mystery goes.
Looking after Manny’s widowed mother and adorable kid sister, Vega also forms a new alliance with another fellow fighter (clad in sensible senior citizen apparel) in the form of Danny Glover’s ornery Bernie.
An agoraphobic shopkeeper whose store is connected to Vega’s gym, when Bernie falls victim to street violence and the two men team up the first time, it isn’t long before the previous bickering grumpy old geezers become fast friends.
New on disc, Bad Asses utilizes a lot of the same techniques from the first film from the frequent shots of Los Angeles maps that illustrate where the leads are going – following one scumbag’s tip to the next – as well as revisiting some of the same supporting castmates and employing a similar blend of laid back situational humor throughout.
Taking a lot of material from the duo's advancing age and the physical, health-related challenges that go along with it, Moss seasons the film’s obligatory bad ass fights with tongue-in-cheek jokes.
While it goes to the scatological well a few too many times (opting for the same exact flatulence gag in two separate scenes, for example), one positive aspect about the series is that its characters don’t talk like stereotypical movie heroes.
Intriguingly avoiding the tendency of a lot of thematically similar action movies to rely far too heavily on pop culture Tarantino-esque speeches or laughably repetitive f-bomb laced outbursts of profanity, Moss never forgets that he’s making a movie that can charm as well as simply entertain its target senior demographic.
Steering clear of cheap Viagra jokes or opportunities for exploitation that would’ve turned off older viewers, while it doesn’t deliver the same guns-blazing over-the-top spectacle of an Expendables movie, it strikes a nice balance of embellished yet nonetheless still human heroes rather than the near-action figures that populate Stallone’s testosterone fueled franchise.
Despite this, Bad Asses does run out of gas in a far more incredulous car chase laced finale than we witnessed in the first film by amping up the action to dubious heights that goes against Vega's street-fighting man Modus operandi.
Nonetheless, it’s still fun to see Glover and Trejo play off each other as men so set in their ways that they won’t let anyone (including themselves or each other) tell them that they’re "too old for any of this shit," as Glover’s Lethal Weapon alter ego was so fond of saying.
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