Vietnam vet Frank Vega (Trejo) now runs an East L.A. community center where he trains young boxers to survive in and out of the ring. But when his prize student falls in with the wrong crowd and turns up dead, Frank teams up with his pal Bernie (Glover) to take matters into their own fists and prove that justice never gets old.
One somewhat encouraging thought that could be said of 'Bad Asses' is that it plays out pretty much as would be expected of a movie of this caliber and premise. A pair of crabby, grumpy senior citizens frustrated by the level of violence and the lack of respect for one's elders are pushed too far and commence dispensing some old-school street justice. Rather than sitting on a rocking chair, complaining about the younger generation and yelling at kids to stay off their lawn, the two men crack open a keg of whoop-ass while groaning about their health. Of course, there's only so much physical activity they're both capable of, so a good amount of terrible CGI and professional stuntmen are required to finish the third act.
The sequel to 2012's film inspired by the YouTube viral video of Thomas Bruso may not be an outright terrible movie, but it's not nearly as good as its predecessor, which is not to imply that the first was any sort of cinematic masterpiece either. It's a strong, entertaining-enough follow-up, giving viewers a very brief half-minute recap at the start before jumping three years forward where Frank Vega (Danny Trejo) now owns and runs a boxing gym. The same over-the-top feel and humor seems largely missing here, carrying on with a more serious tone on social issues. Granted, a few moments are fairly comical and silly, but it's not really until the last quarter of the runtime that the action grows to such an excessive level as to produce even some mild, eye-rolling laughter.
Although there are times where we're not sure it's supposed to be funny or just plain stupid, much of which sadly comes from the plot's poorly-conceived villain Adolfo (Ignacio Serricchio), the movie does offer some hilarious highlights. Danny Glover's cantankerous, sailor-mouthed Bernie Pope is a nice addition to the adventures of L.A. street violence —I'm already writing in future tense since apparently we can already expect a third installment hitting shelves next year. The montage sequence of Frank and Bernie suiting up to fight crime is a sidesplitting nonsense that reminds of the Batman movies: one with his fanny pack and shorts; the other in a green tracksuit. But ultimately, it's Glover's character that saves the sequel with unexpected humor and a few priceless remarks.
Writer and director Craig Moss, mostly known for his terrible schlock parodies, returns for this next installment in the Frank Vega chronicles but also makes good use of Glover's presence, particularly the fact that he's best known as Murtough of the 'Lethal Weapon' series. Throughout the movie, there's a subtle self-awareness to that classic 80s action franchise, starting with the mismatched pairing of Frank and Bernie, turning the movie as a whole into an understated buddy-cop satire. Every time Glover griped about one thing or another, I half-expected him to shout he's getting too old for this. Funnier still is the mastermind behind the drug business and the murder of Frank's boxing prodigy, Leandro (Andrew Divoff), hiding behind diplomatic immunity.
In spite of these clever footnotes, 'Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses' tends to drag and slow with tones of seriousness in the middle of the story when Frank and Bernie are playing detective. Since the premise is partly meant as silly and over-the-top, Moss doesn't quite deliver that aspect until about the third act. However, it's not very clear if any of it was intentional because the scenes I'm thinking of involve oddly bad rear projection photography and laughably crude CG effects during a helicopter chase. Trivial and arguably expected as they may for a low-budget production such as this, they tend to provide some hilarity and work to give the movie a stronger finish. Although two Dannys are definitely badder than one, Moss takes it a tad too serious at times instead of simply rolling with the absurdity.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings 'Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD25 disc inside a blue eco-vortex keepcase with a flyer for a Digital HD download. The disc commences with a series of skippable trailers before switching over to the standard main menu option with full-motion clips and music.
Two grumpy bad asses make their debut on Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that pops off the screen with a richly-saturated color palette. Primaries are full-bodied and vivid, giving the digital photography a colorful, animated feel while secondary hues fill the screen with warmth. Contrast is brilliant and comfortably bright with clean, crisp whites throughout, allowing for stunning clarity and visibility into the far distance. Black levels are luxurious with outstanding gradations between various shades, providing the 1.78:1 image with good dimensionality. Fine lines and textures are distinct and superbly detailed from beginning to end, but a couple instances of minor banding keep the presentation short of perfection.
While the video was a nice surprise, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack comes with few minuses, but overall, it's strong and generally satisfying. For a majority of the runtime, the presentation is maintained in the fronts, or to be more precise, as if much of the action is contained in the center channel. It's not all that terrible, however, since vocals come in clear and crisp from beginning to end, and dynamic range exhibits plenty of detailed clarity in the highs as well as in the mids. A few times, the lossless mix comes alive, particularly with action scenes and when the music swells, filling the soundstage with a variety of background activity. The rears are occasionally employed, expanding the soundfield with excellent directionality and discrete effects, but these moments are far and few in between. Low bass is surprisingly deep and substantial in certain sequences, providing the design with some fun, palpable moments and making the presentation on the whole quite satisfying.
Writer and director Craig Moss returns for this next installment in the Frank Vega chronicles and also makes decently good use of Danny Glover's presence. Despite Danny Trejo reprising the role of a veteran's style of vigilantism, 'Bad Asses' isn't quite as entertaining as its predecessor, largely dragging its feet in the middle of the second act. The Blu-ray arrives with surprisingly excellent picture quality and a good audio presentation, but the supplements are missing. Fans with be largely satisfied with this follow-up, but the curious will want to rent it first.