Danny Trejo is 69 years old and still kicking ass – much more ass than he should be. It’d be one thing if his only leading role this year was Machete Kills, but Trejo has a whole list of titles he’ll be appearing in this year alone, with his most recent action adventure being Dead In Tombstone. Directed by Roel Reiné (Death Race 2/Death Race: Inferno), Trejo brings hell to Earth in this undead Western thriller, making a deal with the Devil, played by none other than Mickey Rourke. If Guerrero (Trejo) can deliver the souls of the six men who double-crossed him, he’ll save his own hell-cursed afterlife – assuming he can trust the Devil.
When you watch a straight-to-DVD/Blu-Ray Danny Trejo film, there are certain expectations and assumptions, but Dead In Tombstone is on the higher end of this scale. Personally, I love Westerns, and I love horror influenced thrillers, so mixing the two genres provides only the guiltiest of pleasures – in which case Danny and company do not disappoint.
In a town run by crooks, criminals, and miscreants, Anthony Michael Hall (yes, the 1980s teen star) leads a notorious gang of nogoodniks who take control of a gold mining town, each gang member posing a unique threat. There’s the arsonist, the thief, the murderer – every Western baddie is covered with this wild crew. Red Cavanaugh (Hall) remains the most charismatic of the bunch, and is the true villain that our anti-hero Guerrero guns for, but the hunt for each gang member provides that silly, B-Movie type fun, as one by one these criminals see their numbers dwindle, and the body count rise.
In a town where apparently it’s common courtesy to blow up buildings as you walk out of them, action was at a premium. Danny Trejo’s character comes back with a vengeance, and wastes no time mowing down the men he once rode with. Dina Meyer helps Trejo out, as her character Calathea wants revenge for the death of her husband, and the two form a gunslinging team out of a mutual hatred for the Blackwater gang.
Reiné includes plenty of typical shootouts and duels, but also detonates as much dynamite as possible, creating massive explosions, and lets Trejo get his hands dirty in some physical bar fights. Some people Danny’s age are using walkers and sitting lifelessly in front of the television, yet here he is throwing dudes twice his size over a bar. Reiné knows what it takes to make an entertaining shoot em’ up film, and focuses on those moments to drive a ho-hum story along – starting with the casting of Danny Trejo.
Dead In Tombstone‘s set design really sold the Old-West vibe, erecting this dusty town ripe for destruction. Again, I’m a sucker for that stereotypical scene where a bar clears out and the bad guy comes sauntering into a saloon through those swinging doors, and Reiné builds a beautifully visual set that transports us back to the times of John Wayne – if the Devil were involved. Reiné (or writers Brendan Cowles and Shane Kuhn if they wrote this in) also paid attention to the little details that enhanced the Western atmosphere, like Guerrero’s quad-barrel shooters, and gave a bit more flair to the typically rusted, grimy times.
Maybe I was so impressed by Dead In Tombstone‘s visuals because watching the Blu-Ray copy provided an insanely crisp picture, as you could make out even the tiniest wrinkles on Trejo’s aged face. Every bit of swirling dust was visible, every explosion was accentuated by visible brightness, and every visual effect implemented during the Devil’s trickery stood up to high standards, never losing us to spotty CGI. Hybrid’s music also helped set the mood for Trejo’s bloody journey, and their audio quality presents itself as vividly as the visual specs. On a side note, I did find myself bumping up the volume during dialogue and then bringing it back down once guns started blazing, so be aware of a little balance flaw between quieter and louder moments.
As for the special features, we’re actually given a good amount:
- Deleted Scenes
- “Deleted Shots Montage”
- The Making Of Dead In Tombstone
- Horses, Guns, & Explosives
- Roel Reiné: The Leader Of The Gang
- A Town Transformed
The deleted scenes alone provide over 10 additional moments, ranging from entire scenes to simple one-liners that got removed before an exchange. Though, like many deleted scenes, these all didn’t make the final cut for a reason, whether the one-liner fell flat or the details presented just weren’t necessary.
As for our behind-the-scenes looks into Dead In Tombstone, a lot of ground is covered. Sporting a bevy of riches, the special features focus on general production, the weaponry used on set and how some of it came about, director Roel Reiné and his vision, and lastly that magnificent town I talked about. The problem is, unless you like Reiné’s film and are truly interested in seeing how movie magic was used to create the final product, you’ll find much of these extras passable and boring. But, for those of you who love this sort of thing, you’ve gotta some goodies worth your while!
Is Dead In Tombstone the most action-packed, enriching thriller of the year? No. Is it a straight-to-Blu-Ray watch that provides an entertaining experience, and only furthers Danny Trejo’s illustrious ass-kicking career? Hells yes it is. I never found myself glancing at my phone, checking the time, or begging for an end, watching Guerrero soak Tombstone in blood with time-wasting satisfaction. It’s sleek, focused, and you can certainly do much, much worse. Keep on kickin’ ass Danny, and I’ll keep tuning in.