Bad Ass: Danny Trejo cleans up nice.
For Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who told Fox News that older Americans should sacrifice their lives for the good of the economy, we offer up a handful of ass-kicking seniors, led by pandemic paraclete Danny Trejo and COVID-19 survivor Marianne Faithful, whom we hope one day meet the Lieutenant Governor in a dark alley.
Bad Ass trailer
Bad Ass (2012)
From Death Wish I-5 and Gran Torino all the way up to VFW, Panther’s (Charles S. Dutton) “Just some old mothereffer looking for revenge” assessment of bad ass Frank (Danny Trejo) could apply to each film’s protagonist. Hopeful that his best days still lie ahead, the Vietnam vet turned dirty-water hot dog vendor should be careful what he wishes for. After his public transit pummeling of a pair of livelong punks goes viral, the poor guy can’t enter a convenience store without having to prove himself. The gangland shooting of an army buddy sets Frank (and the plot) in search of the killers — and a thumb-drive containing proof of big time political corruption. What sets this apart from your average Charles Bronson mutation? A rock-bound lead with charisma to spare and an appreciable ability to act. (Credit writer-director Craig Moss for having the tracks-covering good taste to mention the great stone face by name.) That’s not to say that Trejo’s presence is enough to cover for the string of sub-Harry Callahan one-liners, or the string of clumsy conveniences that at times drag the plot along. And did we really need a forced courtship with a battered, much younger, and soon-to-be-single neighbor (Joyful Drake)? Still, any film that entrusts its lead role to Danny Tejo is one to be robustly embraced.
Irina Palm trailer
Irina Palm (2007)
How many times have you heard people boast that they will do anything to preserve the lives of their children? Maggie (Marianne Faithful) needs to raise money to buy her grandson a life-saving operation. While hers is a magnificent obsession, don’t expect Maggie to turn things around by becoming a great surgeon like Rock Hudson. While out looking for work, she spots a “Hostess Wanted” sign in a Soho sex club and immediately applies. Believing her duties will entail making tea and greeting customers, Maggie is shocked to learn that “hostess” means working with her hands as a professional masturbator. Miki, the club’s owner (played in a perfect Walter Matthau deadpan by Miki Manojlovic), likes her soft mitts, and since no one will ever see the aged wanker working the opposite end of the glory hole, decides to hire her. Time spent tugging means time spent away from her grandson, and before long, his parents begin questioning her absence. She can’t quit because the money is good, so Maggie quickly becomes quite proficient at her trade. Miki decides to elevate Maggie’s status by assigning her a star name. In no time flat, men are lining up for the privilege of experiencing “Irina Palm’s” handicraft. But her good work isn’t the only thing that creates friction while on the job. Irina’s star billing soon forces the once popular Luisa (Dorka Gryllus) to take it on the arches. And her steady hand is also sought by the competition. The job does have its drawbacks: Maggie comes down with a bad case of “penis elbow” and is forced to wear a sling. It also arouses the ire of her son Tom (Kevin Bishop), who decides to follow Mom to work one night. In a blow-up scene worthy of George C. Scott, Tom blasts, “There’s not enough soap in the world to clean off what you do.” Director Sam Gabarski wastes at least fifteen minutes of the film’s running time showing Maggie walking to and from work, has a tendency of fading when he should cut, and is at his most resourceful when devising different objects to place between genitalia and camera so as not to get an NC-17 rating. A couple of Faithful features (Girl on a Motorcycle, Lucifer Rising) have caught my eye, but I generally think of her as a singer. Watching her change from repulsion to total acceptance is nothing short of remarkable. From Belle de Jour to Ruby in Paradise to Showgirls, numerous films have been dedicated to the plight of young women confronting the prospects of life as a sex worker. In an industry sold on marketing youth, making a film about a grandmother forced to adopt sex as a profession was a bold proposition that ultimately paid off.
Based on one of the numerous bogus coming attractions director Robert Rodriguez filmed for his Planet Terror segment of Grindhouse, the ersatz Machete trailer about a renegade Mexican federale featured Danny Trejo, Jeff Fahey, and Cheech Marin, all of whom reprised their roles in the feature. If Planet Terror was an unconvincing effort to replicate the mood and style of ‘70s schlock, Machete is the director’s Master’s Thesis on the subject. This time, Rodriguez and company do something more than just Xerox conventions and hair styles: in one film, they establish their own genre – Mexploitation – while assigning long-overdue leading man status (and top billing) to Mr. Trejo, one of Hollywood’s most rugged and dependable character actors. Not unlike his American International and Cannon Films ancestors, Machete is a man of few words and flinty-eyed reserve — Trejo brilliantly mimics Charles Bronson’s lone facial expression — who is resourceful enough to transform any sharpened object into a weapon of death. His character could have just as easily been nicknamed Corkscrew, Cleaver, or Meat Thermometer — three kitchen utensils our hero readily employs as a means of defense. More than anything, Machete promised the pairing of the greatest actor of his generation and arguably the worst. Seeing the names Robert DeNiro and Steven Seagal on the same poster was enough to call for a defibrillator. Alas, billing is the only thing the men share. The two never grace the same frame, and both actors are almost always photographed in tight close-up. Who is Ethan Maniquis and why is he sharing director credit with Rodriguez? A quick look at Maniquis’ credits indicates that he spent a decade working in the editorial department on several Rodriguez productions before earning a full-blown editor’s credit on Planet Terror. Together, they follow the doctrine of Roger Corman’s New World Pictures to the letter: a lot of action, a sprinkling of social commentary, a little nudity, and you’ll turn a profit every time. Stallone and his Expendables continually wink at their audience, as if to acknowledge that the movies they are parodying were really stupid. Not all of them, and Rodriguez knows it (and shows it) by infusing his celluloid genuflection with reverence and a razor-sharp sense of film history.