Champion: Danny Trejo (2011)

Director: Joe Eckardt
Featuring: Danny Trejo, Val Kilmer, Dennis Hopper, Steve Buscemi, Robert Rodriguez
Music: Jared Lipof, Mark Migdal

Champion is a candid documentary about the life of actor Danny Trejo. You would recognise Trejo instantly, since the late 1980’s he has been appearing in movies, usually as the fearsome bad guy. He has appeared in Dusk Till Dawn, Machete, Predators, Con Air, Desperado, xXx, Anaconda, – all in all, over 100 movies.

But his life wasn’t always that of a Hollywood star. He grew up tough and hard. At 8 years old, he tried marijuana. By 10, he was arrested for the first time. By 12, he was on heroin. All through his adolescence he was in and out of juvenile institutions, having been arrested around 20 times.

Primarily it was his Uncle Gilbert who led him astray. Gilbert was only 6 years old than Trejo, and whatever Gilbert did, Trejo would soon follow. Trejo suggested that if Gilbert had been an athlete, then he would have followed suit. But Gilbert was a hoodlum, and so to became Danny Trejo.

However, Gilbert did teach Trejo to box, a skill he put to good use. Later, when he was in San Quentin, he won the Lightweight and Welterweight titles.

Outside of prison, many years later, it was his boxing skills that kick started his acting career. Up until then he had been working as a drug counselor, helping out kids with drug problems. One of the people he was counseling called him up one night, fearful that he was going to ‘use’. This young man said that his work place was heavily into drugs – and would Trejo accompany him the next day for support. Trejo agreed.

It so happens that the young man was a P.A. on the film, Runaway Train, starring Jon Voight and Eric Roberts. Trejo arrives on the prison set, and is immediately asked if he would like to be an extra.

Then when it is discovered that he could box, he is seconded into training Eric Roberts for the boxing scenes early in the movie. Trejo and Roberts work together so well, Trejo becomes Roberts opponent in the film. And the rest, as they say, is history. Trejo has been working solidly on movies ever since.

Champion is an interesting documentary, and Trejo’s story is a fascinating one. However, if the film has a flaw – and remember we are talking about a man who is primarily known for his acting roles – then it is the lack of footage from the films he has appeared in. There are a few clips from the Spy Kids films, but they don’t really do justice to the film career that Trejo has had.

Ultimately, Trejo’s story is a human drama, showing how he overcome adversity – and turned all the negative aspects of his life into positive points. In that respect, Champion is an inspirational, if somewhat at times preachy, drama.

Here’s the trailer – uploaded to Youtube by chuckyi10

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