Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses (Craig Moss, 2014)
It is a foregone conclusion, given Hollywood economics these days, that when one finds oneself with a surprise hit on one’s hands, one must make a sequel. Bad Ass was the very definition of a surprise hit; Moss’ 2012 basement-budget Danny Trejo vehicle became a bona fide smash on video. This, Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses was in the cards almost immediately, and who better to join Trejo as a geriatric vigilante than Detective Murtaugh himself? I do have to give Moss credit for not having Danny Glover use Murtaugh’s “I’m too old for this shit” tagline, at least.
Plot: Frank Vega (Trejo, reprising his role) is revelling in his newfound fame, but it hasn’t really changed him all that much; he’s still Frankie from the Block, after all, and that includes trips to the local convenience store, run by cantankerous agoraphobic Bernie Pope (Glover), with lots of barb-trading involved. Manny Parks (Constantine‘s Jeremy Ray Valdez), one of Vega’s proteges, winds up dead, and there’s a rumor that drugs are involved. When Vega starts investigating and there’s some pushback, Pope comes to his aid one night, and the two end up hunting for the source of the neighborhood’s drug problem—which turns out to be much more problematic than they first thought.
The safest, and yet least satisfying, route to take with a sequel is “let’s take the things that worked from the first movie and amp them way up.” Invariably, the end result is a series of disconnected scenes that pay lip service to the original film without any of the atmosphere that made it worth watching. Bad Ass 2 is not that bad. (Without mentioning any recent horrible sequels that fit the description, Bad Ass 2 won’t give you a… hangover…) But it does emphasize things about the original, and adding Danny Glover as, basically, a mirror image of Danny Trejo triple-underlines that. There is a plot here, however much it may be lifted from one of the Lethal Weapon movies (telling you which would spoil the mechanism that allows the crooks to act as they do) and however thin a veneer over the two guys wisecracking and hitting people it may be. The upside to this is that if you liked the first one, you will find a good deal of what you liked about the first one here; it’s got the same basement-budget feel with the same surprising level of talent in the cast (everyone must have worked for scale), a lot of one-liners that will make you feel vaguely uncomfortable, and a few moments of explicit, shocking violence, though none of them were as squirm-inducing (to me personally, anyway) as the Dispos-All scene in the first one. The downside, well, Moss went with the tried-and-true formula instead of trying to push a few sides of the envelope to see what the formula could get away with, and the end result, while a fun, enjoyable movie, is vaguely dissatisfying because of it. ** ½