Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo a fascinating look at a familiar face from film

If you already know a little bit about the life of badass actor Danny Trejo, then my job as a film reviewer is already done. You know that it’s an amazing story, and you only need my assurance that this documentary does a splendid job of expanding that story to feature length, which it does. There; you’re sold.

If, on the other hand, you know nothing about the life of badass actor Danny Trejo, then I’ll give you a few details right now, and then you can join Group A in the ticket line. 

Danny Trejo, of course, is that terrifying, heavily-tattooed, scowling Mexican-American actor with the unforgettable face. Audience members, seeing Danny for the first time, freeze in their seats, eyes wide open with awe. If they’ve seen Danny before (very likely, now that he’s got over 380 acting credits on IMdB), they smile broadly, acknowledging that the movie just got good. 

Inmate #1 tells Danny’s story through new interview footage with family, friends, and (mostly) from Trejo himself. He became a heroin addict and criminal early in life, and spent over a decade in prison for armed robbery. Prison life was terrifying (the sight of a prisoner getting stabbed to death was common), and he came out hardened, toughened, and determined to stay away from drugs and alcohol. 

Danny arrived almost by chance on the set of Runaway Train(1985) where he was offered work first as an extra, then as Eric Roberts’ boxing instructor, and finished the experience with Hollywood connections and a glimpse of a better life for himself. Since then, he’s appeared in everything from Spy Kids to Machete, and frequently volunteers his time to speak to drug abusers and at-risk youths to show them that it’s still possible to turn their lives around. 

You gotta love the guy.

Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo screens Monday, Sept. 23rd at the Globe Cinema at 9 p.m. as part of the Calgary International Film Festival.

John Tebbutt is the Video Vulture. He has been writing about obscure and ridiculous cinema since 1997. You can keep up with his nonsense on his website, Facebook, Twitter and through episodes of a program he’s doing with NUTV.