Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo (2020)

Danny Trejo began his thirty year career as the epitome of the “That One Guy” actor, appearing in so many bit parts and yet he was so easy to recognize. But when he was suddenly catapulted in to fame, he became the idea of what many envision as the American Dream. He also became the quintessential prisoner makes good tale, and his journey is as riveting as you’d assume it is. For fans of the man like me, “Inmate #1” is a riveting and down to Earth exploration of Trejo’s journey of redemption.

“Inmate #1” is an unflinching exploration in to the life of Danny Trejo, a young Mexican man who struggled to find male role models and friends during childhood. After falling in to a life of crime and murder, he grapples with gangs, crime, intense drug abuse, and an inevitable long stay at San Quentin. Years after his release, Trejo accidentally stepped on to a movie set, and lands a job as a movie extra. The rest is history.

It’s shocking how somber and restrained “Inmate #1” is considering Trejo is considered such a cult icon. He’s even been dropped in to camp and self satire every now and then, but Brett Harvey creates a human and sincere biography that any fan of Trejo will adore. Much of Trejo’s Hollywood career is more of the backdrop for his journey to self realization and redemption as he spends much of the film recalling the heinous crimes he’s committed and his sense of fear at losing his humanity. Trejo is very warm and charming and discusses so much of his past without apology or excuse.

He’s merely a man who spent so much of his young life looking for direction and purposes, and never quite felt like he deserved good fortune and happiness. Harvey gathers honest interviews with much of Trejo’s family and friends, including his children, friends like Michelle Rodriguez, and Robert Rodriguez, and old friends, all of whom deliver emotional call backs to much of Trejo’s life and quest for personal redemption. While “Inmate #1” does dig in to Trejo the cult film icon, there’s so much more to Trejo than even his hardcore fans will realize when the film has drawn to a close.

Now Available on Digital in the U.S.