Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo (15)

Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo (15)

Director: Brett Harvey

Cast: Danny Trejo, Robert Rodriguez, Michelle Rodriguez, Donal Logue, Cheech Marin

Runtime:107 minutes

Synopsis: ‘Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo’ is a feature documentary revealing the extraordinary life journey of Hollywood’s most unlikely hero, Danny Trejo. From an early life of drugs, armed robbery and hard prison time, to the red carpets of Hollywood blockbusters and helping troubled addicts, Danny gives a first-hand account of one of the greatest transformations of human character ever put on film. To this day, Danny continues to counsel recovering addicts and speak at state prisons.

This is a feature length documentary tracing the amazing life journey of Hollywood’s most unlikely hero, Danny Trejo, from an early life of drugs, crime and prison, to the red carpets of Hollywood blockbusters and helping addicts. Danny gives a vivid personal account of one of the most extraordinary transformations of human character and behaviour.

Canadian documentary and feature filmmaker Brett Harvey [Ice Guardians (2016), The Culture High (2014), The Union: The Business behind Getting High (2007)] brings the charismatic, ultimate tough guy to the screen.  As one commentator observes: “They make movies and stories about guys like Danny – Danny is that guy.”

He has spent 71 years starring in a personal expedition that outshines any Hollywood fiction.  The film is the shocking – and inspiring – story of one man’s capacity to overcome his demons, only to discover redemption through the most unlikely of journeys. Through the exploration of his old stomping ground with a supporting cast of family, friends and some of the world’s biggest stars, Danny Trejo delivers a raw and sobering account of his transformation from a hardened criminal to celebrated Hollywood icon and beloved friend of all who cross his path.

Brett Harvey’s impressive documentary traces the career of the actor who left behind a life of crime to win roles in a string of Hollywood action movies, such as the ‘Machete’ films.

Danny Trejo’s extraordinary life took him from a boyhood in the tough Pacioma district of Los Angeles, to heroin abuse in his teens, violent crime in early adulthood and jail in various institutions, where his terrifying alpha-Latino image and boxing skills earned him a reputation as someone not to be messed with.

After he was released, he went to AA, got clean, and landed a job as a coach and then as an extra on a film set. He became adored by filmmakers and casting directors as the ‘real deal’, a tough guy whose tattoos alone were enough to terrify. He rose from non-speaking parts (billed as Inmate #1, Gangbanger #1 etc) to speaking roles in movies such as Heat (1995), Desperado (1995), Con Air (1997) and family movies including Spy Kids (2002). With his gift for granite-faced black comedy he became a legend in Robert Rodriguez’s Mexploitation film Machete (2010). He also became a friend of ex-con, pulp novelist and actor Eddie Bunker [Mr Blue in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992)].

The film paints a picture of an amazing and inspiring human with an unbelievable life story and a heart-warming positive message – with plenty of humour. The highs, the lows and the ultimate triumphant message of hope keep the viewer entranced.


Streaming on digital platforms

Images courtesy of: Universal Pictures Content Group


Danny Trejo’s big break came about partly because of a prison tattoo on his chest, depicting a woman wearing a sombrero. Thanks to that distinctive mark, a screenwriter recognized him as a champion boxer.