Tag Archives: danny trejo

The Crow: Wicked Prayer


Out of the multiple attempts at The Crow sequels, Wicked Prayer is the most legendarily awful. You’d think that after two rainy, urban set, near identical efforts that a switch up to the New Mexico desert for an Aztec, satanic theme might just be grand, but nope, they dicked it up royally. Even with a cast as cool as they were able to lasso into this mess they couldn’t make it work. The Eric Draven avatar here is a trailer trash troublemaker named Jimmy Corvo, played by Edward ‘John Connor’ Furlong, who hasn’t exactly brushed up his acting skills since his iconic turn in T2. Corvo is in love with Lilly (Emmanuelle Chriqui), the daughter of a local chief (Danny Trejo lol) who despises him. Also running around is Luc Crash (David ‘Angel’ Boreanaz), an occultist whacko who wishes to use his body as a vessel for Satan and… rule New Mexico I guess? Joined by his psychotic little hoe girlfriend (Tara Reid) and four thug henchman aptly named after the horsemen of the apocalypse, he needs a couple human sacrifices, and who better than young lovers Jimmy and Lilly? Furlong is resurrected via that good ol’ blackbird, of course, and sports the worst makeup job since.. I don’t know since what to be honest, it’s an equally horrendous and hilarious look. He goes looking for vengeance against Crash and his ilk, and all sorts of silly supernatural nonsense ensues, yada yada. You’d think that such a concept would have been great, but everything is handled so poorly, the budget seems lower than the filmmaker’s standards of quality, and Dimension should be ashamed to have to slap their classy label on this roadkill of a four-quel. As if all that wasn’t enough wasted talent, Dennis Hopper shows up arbitrarily as a jive talking, white 70 year old pimp who has absolutely nothing to do with the story, and whose dialogue as well as delivery will have your eardrums bleeding out in minutes. Please, please avoid this at all cost. 

-Nate Hill

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Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado 

Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado is the original south of the border shoot em up bloodbath, bar none. I’m aware it’s a sequel/remake of Robert’s breakout debut El Mariachi, but the now legendary style and brutality he cultivated started to blossom here in the Mexican desert with scowling Antonio Banderas and his guitar case packed with heavy artillery. The aesthetic coalesced into something measurable here, whilst in Mariachi we only saw fits and starts. Here the tone is solidified and paves the way for the magnum opus that is Once Upon A Time In Mexico, my favourite Rodriguez flick. It all starts with the image of Banderas sauntering into a scumbucket cantina, full of sweaty machismo and smouldering angst, laying waste to the place with more phallic firepower than the entire wild Bunch. It’s a time capsule worthy sequence that demonstrates the pure viscerally intoxicating effect that the action film has on a viewer, when done as well as it is here. Narrated by wisecracking sidekick Buscemi (Steve Buscemi, naturally), Banderas positively perforates the place, fuelled by the internal furnace of revenge, shrouded in the acrid scent of gunpowder and awash in tequila delirium. As soon as this sequence blows past, the credits roll up and we’re treated to a Mariachi ballad sung by Antonio himself, belted out with his band to ring in this hell-beast of a movie. Together, those two scenes are some of the very, very best opening sequences you can find out there, timelessly re-watchable. The rest of the film pulls no punches either, as we see El leave a wanton gash of carnage in his wake across Mexico, on a vision quest of violence as he works his way up the ranks of organized crime, starting with slimy dive bar owner Cheech Marin. Quentin Tarantino has a spitfire cameo, rattling off a ridiculous joke before El steps into yet another bar and the shit (as well as the blood) hits the fan. His endgame target is crime boss Bucho, played with terrifying ferocity by Joaquim De Almeida. It’s hard to picture an angrier performance than Banderas’s before Almeida shows up, but this guy is a violent livewire who’s not above capping off his own henchman like ducks in a row, puffing on a giant cigar and casually blowing the smoke in his concubine’s face mid coitus. El has a love interest of his own too, in the form of ravishing, full bodied Carolina (Salma Hayek). Hayek is a babe of the highest order, and their steamy candle lit sex scene is one of the most full on ‘jizz your pants’ rolls in the hay that 90’s cinema has to offer. This is an action film to the bone though, and they’ve scarcely mopped up and caught their breath before he’s forced to dispatch another horde of Bucho’s degenerates in high style. One has to laugh a bit when a guitar case becomes a full on rocket launcher during the earth shattering finale, but such are the stylistic dreams of Rodriguez, a filmmaker who is never anything short of extreme in his work. As if the guns weren’t enough, Danny Trejo shows up as a mute assassin who like to hurl throwing knives at anything that moves, and it’s this Baby Groot version of his Machete character years later that comes the closest to punching El’s ticket. The stunt work is jaw dropping as well, a tactile ballet of broad movements, squib armies that light up the screen, accompanied by gallons of blood that follows the thunder clap of each gunshot wound like crimson lightning. It’s a perfect package for any lover of action, romance, action, darkest of humour, action, oh and action too. When discussing films that have held up in years or decades since release, this one is not only a notable mention, it’s a glowing example and a classic that has just aged gorgeously.

-Nate Hill

Indie Gems: 13 Moons


It’s anybody’s guess how ones like 13 Moons slip through the cracks, but in this case it was probably a case of nonexistent marketing and no effort put into a proper release. Despite having a cast that’s speckled with all kinds of big names, character actors and cameos, it has the appearance of barest of bones indie digs, and looks suspiciously like it was filmed bootleg/guerrilla style. I’ve not a clue what the story behind it’s conception is, but it’s a brilliant little flick that you won’t find anywhere these days, but deserves a look. It’s one of those moody, nocturnal L.A. set ensemble pieces in which a group of eclectic characters wander about, intersecting in various subplots until it finally comes together in the third act. This motif is overdone these days, and I just have to throw a jab at Paul Haggis’s Crash, which has aged like Kraft Dinner left for a week in the Florida sun, but my point is that they either work or topple over like a jenga tower buckling under the weight of each character and scenario. This one is so low budget it looks like it was shot on an etch a sketch, but thankfully the story is powerful, emotional, hilarious and strange enough to make a lasting impression. Steve Buscemi and Peter Dinklage are two sad-sack clowns who wander the nightscape, and in fact the image of absurdly out of place clowns roaming the lonely streets of NYC, getting caught up in a raucous night out involving a man (David Proval, an underused talent in the industry) and his young son who is dying of cancer and desperately seeks an organ doner, while his mom (Jennifer Beals) looks for them. Meanwhile there’s an insane clown played by Peter Stormare who’s running about, and when I say insane I do mean it. Stormare is always a little zany and flamboyant, but his work here takes the cake and whips it at the wall. It’s easy for actors to be uninhibited in indie fare like this, free from the prudence of studio chaperones, and he knows this, his character eventually playing a key role but most of the time careening around like a bat out of hell set loose in New York. The cameos are fleeting and fascinating, and one wonders who was buddies with who and pulled what favours to swing their appearances, but it’s nice to see them irregardless. Sam Rockwell and Michael Parks are fun as two bartenders, real life ex-hoodlums Danny Trejo and Edward Bunker show up briefly as.. hoodlums, and watch for quick turns from Pruitt Taylor Vince, Michael Badalucco and others. The film is thoroughly indie that no one has, or probably will ever see it, and my review probably adds to the scant half dozen or so write ups that are out there. Sadly many little treasures like this exist, unbeknownst to most. 13 Moons is a sweet, scrappy, somewhat star studded little piece that is well worth anyone’s time, if they love a good story in an oddball of a package. 

-Nate Hill

The Hidden


The Hidden is the kind of flick that makes you sit back, sink a little deeper into the couch, take a long swig of lager and nostalgically murmur “they don’t make ’em like they used to.” Maybe I was just born in the wrong era, but the 80’s and 90’s just seemed to hurl forth so many winners, unbridled genre bliss that only got better with age, worth the revisit every time. The effects were practical, the stories were told with love, care and inspiration and the action was real, hard hitting and built to last. This film one opens with what can literally only be described as a cinematic version of Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto; we see a well dressed, determined man (Twin Peak’s Chris Mulkey in batshit mode) rob a bank, obliterate several police officers with a big honkin’ shotgun, steal a Ferrari, drive said Ferrari through a busy park, smoke a dude in a wheelchair at over a hundred clicks, lead the entire police force on an apocalyptic highway chase and cheerfully get ventilated in a hailstorm of bullets upon careening through their barricade. Case closed, right? Not for a mysterious FBI Agent (Kyle MacLachlan) who arrives out of nowhere and commandeers the case from the leading detectives (Ed O Ross and a wicked sharp Michael Nouri). MacLachlan knows something the force doesn’t, let alone would ever believe: there’s an alien running around inhabiting human bodies a là Body Snatchers, and going on hedonistic tirades of the worst possible behaviour, hence the shotgun tantrum in the opener. How does he know this, you ask? Because he himself is an alien in a Kyle suit, intrepidly pursuing the other one from a distant galaxy to halt it’s destructive shenanigans forever. It’s a premise that could have opened the door to all sorts of ooey gooey creature effects, but the film minimizes on those, choosing a few key moments to show the slime, and focuses mainly on glass shattering, guns blazing action, a neat recipe of three parts action with a tablespoon of yuck, if you will. MacLachlan, still very young at the time, anchors his performance with emotional heft, amusing aloofness and the necessary grit that can be found in his iconic portrayal of Agent Dale Cooper on Twin Peaks, and I was reminded more than a few times of that character while watching him in this. As the extraterrestrial nutjob moves from host to host, blowing everything up and leaving a trail of massacred people in it’s wake, the two of them race at every turn to catch up, and it’s Nouri who finds the seething anger one must get watching an outsider roll up and stamp all over someone else’s territory. The alien isn’t interested in world domination, resources or assimilation, it just wants to fuck shit up and have a good time, man. Blasting rock n’ roll music, gorging itself on steak dinners, stealing every Ferrari it can get it’s hands on and raiding the police evidence room for all kinds of heavy artillery, this thing doesn’t slow down for a second. This is the only film I know that paints off-earth visitors quite like this, just a gleeful, anarchic adrenaline junkie asshole, and I admire the brutal honesty, because I know of quite a few morons who would probably engage in the exact same behaviour, should they ever find themselves incognito and without consequences on an unassuming, far away planet. This one is pure screaming fun the whole way through, and should be every bit as iconic as other sci fi tales that are remembered more prolifically. Watch for the tiniest Danny Trejo cameo, playing (guess what) a prison inmate.  

-Nate Hill

From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter- A Review by Nate Hill 

Some franchises feel stale and wrung out by the time the third effort comes along, but not From Dusk Till Dawn. In fact I’d even be so bold as to say that despite not having quite such a budget and resources as the original Tarantino/Rodriguez splatter party, this prequel almost has more in the way of imagination. The first came out of the gate roaring and paved the way, the second was a more mellow heist orientated flick that incorporated the horror elements in as it went, but the third does something altogether different. It’s a period piece, set a hundred years in the past, sometime around the Mexican/American war. When notorious outlaw Johnny Madrid (Marco Leonardi) dodges the hangman’s noose and escapes, he brings abused daughter Esmerelda (Ara Celi) along and scrambles for the state line. The ferocious hangman is none too pleased, given the menacig scowl of Maori bad boy Temuerra Morrison, who played Jango Fett in another prequel we all love. Rounding up a posse, he hunts Madrid and his scurvy gang through the terrain. Madrid is unknowingly headed for a far worse danger though, when he and Esmerelda run straight into the iconic Titty Twister bar, dressed up like a frontier whorehouse this time around. Also along for the ride are a group of wagon travellers including a young newlywed couple (Rebecca Gayheart and Lennie Loftin), oddball Ezra (Orlando Jones) and the real life writer Ambrose Bierce, played with alcoholic grit and gallows humour by Michael Parks. Bierce is famous for actually disappearing somewhere in that area back then, and I like how the film cleverly weaves fact and fiction, putting in a commendable effort to make the turn of events fascinating beyond just a servicable horror level. Danny Trejo also returns, as he must, playing pretty much the same character he did in the first and second, never mind the fact that he keeps dying (you can’t really kill Danny, everyone knows this). I love the formula for these films; they always start out with a slower paced, pulp/crime style narrative that suddenly explodes into creature FX, blood orgies and vampire mayhem without much warning. The first was the bank robbers on the run with hostages, the second was the heist crew and the third is a rousing Desperado style actioner that morphs into the horror we all know is coming. Well produced with a lot of love and some real thought put into the story, exciting and provides more than enough for any horror fan. Definitely the better of the two sequels. 

B Movie Glory with Nate: Point Blank 

Point Blank takes a big, silly macho whack at the trashy action genre, and gives fans of such lowbrow, cheese saturated stuff a huge sloppy kiss. It’s so ridiculous you have to laugh, but you’re laughing with it because it sheepishly knows what an outlandish hoot it is, which is somewhat reassuring in this territory, because a lot of them play it dead straight and are oblivious to their own vapid density. Not this baby. It wears it’s stupidity loud and proud, and there’s many a moment that will have you howling. Mickey Rourke was in the height of his juicing heyday here, and he looks like Buffalo Bill covered the incredible Hulk in the tanned leather of some poor broad (should have put the lotion in the basket like he told you). He plays Rudy Ray, an ex special ops turned farmhand of few words and lots of action. Rudy’s brother (Wainegro himself, Kevin Gage) is mixed up with a nasty bunch of escaped convicts who have hidden out in a rural strip mall and taken multiple hostages. Rudy is summoned by the local Sheriff (Fredric Forrest), and with the resolute blessing of his crusty father (the immortal James Gammon) proceeds to go redneck John McClane on these whackos and basically tear the place apart. Gage is the leader of the pack, but the most dangerous one by far is a coked up, homicidal Danny Trejo, who terrorizes a poor female captive and basically empties clips at anything that moves. Throw in Michael Wright as a seriously intense war vet with a rocky past (he has a monologue that dips between scary and campy quite a bit) and Paul Ben Victor displaying acting so far over the top it’ll make your eyes and ears bleed, and you’ve got one inane B movie crew ready to fulfill your every schlocky need. It’s funny because there’s an ’emotional’ scene near the end where Rourke and Gage go brother to brother and it’s supposed to be touching. The writing is so godawful, and the music so beyond ludicrous, but the two of them are such good actors that they end up completely selling it without even trying, like they couldn’t turn in bad work if they wanted to. It’s basically Die Hard in the sticks, with Rourke instead of Willis, a mall instead of a skyscraper, and you know… the fact that it’s obviously not a good movie. It’s a hell of a lot of fun though, if you’re in the mood to get silly with it. 

MACHETE – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

danny-trejo-as-machete

When he made his half of the Grindhouse double bill (2007), Robert Rodriguez also put together a trailer for a film he would like to see. And so, Machete (2010) was born – a Mexploitation action film about an ex-federale who is set-up, double-crossed and left for dead. However, the origins for this project go back even further to 1995 when Rodriguez made Desperado, the second film in his El Mariachi trilogy. It would be the first time (but certainly not the last) he worked with veteran character actor and professional badass Danny Trejo. He’s someone you’ve probably not heard of but have definitely seen. If you need a tough-looking tattooed henchman, he’s your man. While working on Desperado, Rodriguez envisioned Trejo starring in a series of action films as Machete but at that time the director did not have the clout to get someone to bankroll a Latino action film that didn’t feature someone with movie star looks like Antonio Banderas.

Rodriguez never forgot about his pet project and over the years cast Trejo in several of his films. Even though the Grindhouse films were a commercial failure, audiences loved the faux trailer for Machete. Rodriguez managed to convince a Hollywood studio to finance it with a modest budget and used his connections to assemble an impressive cast that included the likes of Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, and “introducing” Don Johnson. However, what worked as a movie trailer be too much of a good thing as a feature film?

The prologue sets up everything we need to know about Machete (Trejo) – he’s a badass Mexican federale set-up by his corrupt superior and left for dead by local druglord Torrez (Seagal). It also sets just the right tone as we see Machete hacking and slashing his way through a house of bad guys with bloody abandon. Meanwhile, in the United States, a corrupt, ultra-conservative Texan senator named John McLaughlin (De Niro), campaigns on a platform of preventing illegal immigrants from crossing the border. He even employs a border vigilante group, led by the brutal Von Jackson (Johnson), to enforce his policies.

Sartana Rivera (Alba) is an upstanding Immigrations enforcement officer investigating the problem through legal channels and ends up crossing paths with Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), a no-nonsense taco stand operator who moonlights as a revolutionary operating an underground railroad of sorts for her Mexican brothers and sisters. Machete, now a day laborer (or, at least that’s his cover), is hired by Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey), a local businessman, to kill the Senator for $150,000. Machete is set up, shot and forced to go into hiding. With the help of Rivera and Luz, he plots revenge on the men that betrayed him.

It’s awesome to see Danny Trejo finally get to carry a film for once and play a character that doesn’t get killed off. He brings his customary intensity as the strong, silent man of action and in many respects the film is Rodriguez’s present to the actor as he has him take down tons of bad guys, look cool doing it, and hook up with many of the film’s lovely ladies, including Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba and Lindsay Lohan! Robert De Niro is a lot of fun to watch playing a John McCain meets George W. Bush-esque xenophobic politician. It’s also great to see Steven Seagal as a powerful criminal and Machete’s arch-nemesis, not to mention appearing in a mainstream film that didn’t go straight-to-home video.

Michelle Rodriguez adds another tough chick role to her resume as she portrays the female Mexican equivalent of Che Guevara but with a dash of Snake Plissken. Another fun bit of casting is Lindsay Lohan playing the messed up celebutante child of Booth. She and Rodriguez have some fun riffing on her public persona and kudos to the director for not bowing to peer and public pressure about her party girl reputation and showing that regardless, she still has the acting chops. Rodriguez regulars Tom Savini and Cheech Marin show up in memorable bit parts as a deadly assassin and Machete’s ex-federale now-priest brother.

It’s no secret that Rodriguez is a filmmaker that wears his influences on his sleeve. For example, Desperado was an homage to the Hong Kong action films of John Woo and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and Planet Terror (2007) evoked the films of John Carpenter and George Romero. Growing up in the 1980s, Machete is Rodriguez’s love letter to the films produced by Cannon Films during that decade. They were responsible for cranking out an endless stream of generic action films starring the likes of Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris and Michael Dudikoff. In these films, the action stars were often a one-man army capable of wiping out the fighting force of a small country seemingly single-handedly. The same goes for Machete who is an unstoppable killing machine bent on revenge.

Machete is full of outrageous, over-the-top violence and inventively staged action sequences, like one scene where Machete bungee-jumps from one floor of a hospital to another with the aid of an evil henchman’s large intestine. In this respect, the film has the same gonzo, go-for-broke action that Rodriguez orchestrated in the underrated Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003). Living up to his namesake, Machete finds all sorts of ways to kill the bad guys with a vast assortment of sharp weapons. Machete is a lot of fun and never outstays its welcome as Rodriguez knows how to keep things moving so that things never get boring.

michelle-rodriguez-as-luzMachete not only features all kinds of wild action sequences but also has something on its mind, commenting on the rampant immigration problems that continue to plague the states along the United States/Mexico border. Along the way, Rodriguez plays up and makes fun of Latino stereotypes (they are all day laborers and love tricked out cars) only to twist them into a rallying cry, a call for revolution that takes full bloom by the film’s exciting conclusion in a way that has to be seen to be believed. Best of all, Rodriguez has created yet another awesome Latino action hero. Forget Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables (2010), Machete is the real deal and a no-holds-barred love letter to ‘80s action films. As great as it was to see many of the beloved action stars from the ‘80s and 1990s, I felt that Stallone’s film never went far enough. Rodriguez’s film doesn’t have that problem as it gleefully goes all the way with its cartoonish violence.