Danny Trejo is such an interesting figure because of the fact that he has the intimidating appearance of a true tough guy, and yet he is one of those guys that you can truly get into an insightful conversation with. He is one of those men who on the surface as the appearance of a person you would not annoy in a million years, and yet he has the soul of a damaged poet. Champion does an exceptional job of revealing that soul, telling his life story from the way that his life was damaged as a child to how he turned into a hardened criminal before turning his faith to a higher power and turning his entire life around in the process. Champion is an inspiring story about a man whose life turned to despair and was given a second chance by God and Cinema, and although films that talk about the former are common, a movie that focuses more so on the latter is a new idea to me. Cinema is a passion which kept Danny Trejo going and ended up being enough of an influence to spread his story around and even get it chronicled in the documentary Champion. Considering that five years after Champion Danny Trejo would go on to earn worldwide recognition for his leading performance as the titular warrior Machete Cortez in the homage to mexploitation films entitled Machete, it is excellent to see a film like Champion which revealed just how he came to be the person that he is. Champion talks about how even the smallest contributor to a film can have such a wonderful effect on the lives of people and reminds us that every person in the world is living some kind of life we don't know. The fact that we know his is spectacular, and I walked away from Champion with a newfound respect for him. While his story is one that has been covered in many documentaries about similar people and the film can only go so far without always getting as deep or as honest as it could, what it does project is magnificent and proves to be inspiring, thought provoking and above all, entertaining.
Danny Tejo expresses his way that his belief in God and the Twelve Step Program helped to save his life, and so it serves as a tale about how even one's beliefs alone can save their life, as in the way that one's psychological functioning can manifest itself into a physical existence which makes life better for the person living it. Frankly, it is hard not to feel the kind of inspiration in Danny Trejo's story, and although it is similar to the lives that hundreds of people have lived before, the way that he tails his story with such honesty and without forming some kind of artificial shell for himself is just exceptional. Champion is a chance for Danny Trejo to truly tell his story, and that is exactly what he does with the film. Every time he speaks, my attention was fully focused on him because I was always interested in what he had to say and in finding out just what kind of a person he is. He bears out his soul for viewers in Champion and reveals just how he has kept on fighting for so long even though he has gone through prison sentences and faced the betrayal of being brought into a life of crime by his uncle, the one man that he really trusted in the world and valued so dear to his heart.
Champion finds a strong balance between revealing just who Danny Trejo was and how he affected people around him, and they all mention how they were very intimidated by his appearance but consider him to be one of the most kindred spirits they have ever met. It interviews many people, including notable celebrities Steve Buscemi, Dennis Hopper and Robert Rodriguez among others. They all have a lot of interesting things to say about him which means that Champion covers both who Danny Trejo is and what he means to people. The interviewed people speak with true passion for him which is insightful and honest, and it makes the experience a terrific one. You would not expect that Danny Trejo's mere existence had touched so many people in life or that he was able to get so lucky as to turn everything around. While the film follows a pretty basic path for a documentary and brings many topics to the surface without always getting into a deep and meaningful exploration of them, it ends up doing a job which is good enough to entertain and educate. Plus, the movie is constantly talking about something and tends not to drag on but rather keeps on finding something new of interest to bring up and discuss. Champion is not the most 100% interesting film and it doesn't always have too much to discuss, but really, it is a film about a man who most people would have spotted in films but not have known the stories about. And it tells it well enough to be inspiring and even heartwarming.
So while Champion follows a conventional route as a documentary and tells a story which feels rather familiar even though the film is a documentary, the fact is that it is an honest and very touching film which reveals the life of Danny Trejo through both his own telling and the interviews with many people in his life, and it makes for a very touching experience. It is a great tribute to the man himself who has lived through so much and also serves as an in depth exploration about how one can turn their life around when really determined to do so.
I admire such individuals, as Danny.
"Champion" is framed in a series of interviews, sometimes on location like San Quentin where he signs autographs for convicts who look up to him, that allow him to tell his story in his own words. With a garrulous presence, he starts with when he fell under the sway of a criminal relative as a juvenile that leads to a life of drugs and crime(as he says, one feeds off the other) and prison where he hits rock bottom in solitary. He credits his turnaround to God and Alcoholics Anonymous and any good fortune to a life of good deeds in his work as a drug counselor.