Danny Trejo, you know the man. He has fierce tattoos, and frequently plays a thug in your favorite movies. Behind the ink and the wicked characters he plays on screen lies the story of a ...
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Danny Trejo, you know the man. He has fierce tattoos, and frequently plays a thug in your favorite movies. Behind the ink and the wicked characters he plays on screen lies the story of a troubled childhood which included drug addiction, armed robbery and extensive prison time. Champion offers an intimate, one of a kind view into the life of Danny Trejo before he turned himself around and after. Written by
Trejo deserves a better director/interviewer for a documentary on his life-story
Early on in Chamion, a documentary on the hard-knock life and eventual fruitful career as character actor Danny Trejo (with now over 100 films to his name), the writer/interviewer Cecily Gambrell is asked by Trejo how this is going to go, and she responds that it should just be "like on Oprah." At that moment I sort of cringed, and it was something that would permeate throughout the rest of the film. It goes without saying that the turbulent and sort of inspiring story of Trejo's life from urban squalor to cult movie star status is impressive on its own, and to hear Trejo talk about it in any form is interesting. But the director and interviewer/writer of the film almost go out of their way to make it filmed in an dissatisfying way, which is troubling. At times, with the fade-to-white transitions (which are used quite often), the title cards explaining this or that about Trejo's early years into prison-life, and the shoddy camera-work (frankly I think my near-blind mother could shoot better than this), make it a little unpleasant as a form of storytelling.
Of course, I'm not expecting this to be an Errol Morris or Al Maysles film, but there just seems to be some lack of drive in how the director moves Trejo's story along, and the questions only probe so far enough so that Trejo goes on with his stories simply enough and without too much pretense (the stories involving Bunker are, in fact, some of the best parts, or at least least contrived, in the film). Which is fine, but there seems to be even more under the surface in Trejo's long and bumpy road from juvenile delinquent, habitual drug-user, thief, inmate, and eventual rehabilitated and strong-as-hell actor, than is really checked out on, and it's a little pathetic to see the same short clips from *Spy Kids* shown when his fellow colleagues like Buscemi and Robert Rodriguez talk about his work as a bad-ass in films like Con Air and Desperado (sure it's probably a rights issue, but still, it's such a lame clip to show, even if he is technically playing Machete).
In short, I think that compared to this, a man like Trejo would probably have an awesome time on Oprah's show- maybe not jumping on the couch, but who knows? It almost seems like Rodriguez himself- a second cousin of Trejo- should've made this documentary, as opposed to Eckhart, who's never done a documentary, which shows. This all said, the criticism I had though is really only of the style of camera and editing and the questions given on screen; Trejo himself is consistently watchable and engaging, and its for him alone, if you're a fan (and who isn't after seeing the Machete trailer during Grindhouse), that it's worth checking out.
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