Danny Trejo has appeared in well over a hundred films, frequently playing killers. He has spent most of his career in supporting roles as badasses who get their just desserts at the hands of the films' heroes. But at the age of 66 he's having a major career change with a starring role in Machete as the kick-ass hero of the film. But here’s a look back on his nastier roles and his most memorable death scenes, counting down to the best ones.
This was one of Danny Trejo’s earliest screen appearances and it’s rather surprising to see him clean cut and sitting in a swanky restaurant (rather than washing dishes in the back). But he’s still a baddie, and vigilante Charles Bronson blows Trejo and his cohorts up as they eat their dinner. The explosion, however, is one of the cheesiest you’ll ever see.
Trejo is foolishly killed off too early in this not quite a remake/reboot/sequel to the famous '80s actioner. Trejo’s the second one slaughtered by the alien predator and then he’s used as bait to lure the others to their deaths. The predator even imitates his voice to try and fool the others. Fortunately, Adrien Brody is too smart for that lame trick. The film would have been better if Trejo had been allowed to stick around a bit longer.
Trejo, along with Til Schweiger, has the honor of being hired to kill Chow Yun Fat in his first American film. Trejo’s Collins survives two encounters with Chow only to have Chow put a bullet in his head at their third meeting. Trejo, however, doesn’t merit an on-camera death scene even though he’s perched high up on a fire escape and would have had a lovely fall. But he does get to crack wise before being iced. His final words to Chow are a cocky, “Checkmate.” Of course he’s the one who’s checkmated.
As a South American poacher, Trejo has the honor of being the first victim of the titular character… Well, sort of. His boat is attacked by the unseen mega-snake, and since he’s meant to be a superstitious native he reacts with irrational fear and climbs to his crow’s nest to shoot himself in the head. Trejo killing Trejo, how perfect.
This is the film on which Trejo met filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. Since then they have worked repeatedly together, including on the career-changing Machete. As Navajas in Desperado, Trejo is a knife-throwing hit man hired to kill El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas). Only problem is that just as Navajas has the drop on El Mariachi, the other hit men mistake him for their target and kill him by mistake. Sometimes a hit man simply gets no respect.
6. 'xXx' (2002)
Trejo plays El Jefe, a South American thug set on torturing a tied up Vin Diesel. He informs Diesel, “I’ll show you what we do with funny guys that get in our business.” Then he picks up a machete (foreshadowing perhaps) and threatens to slice some body parts off. But Diesel thinks it’s all a joke, part of some government hoax to scare him into cooperating in a covert mission. But it turns out that El Jefe is dead serious about killing xXx. So Diesel calls him short and then takes him down. Trejo escapes from Diesel only to be blown up in his truck when U.S. forces raid the place.
As Cucuy, Trejo is once again after Antonio Banderas’ El Mariachi. He tells him. “There’s a price on your head and I’m gonna collect it.” To which Banderas says, “You I save for last.” Banderas takes out a bunch of hit men, and an awful lot of fruits, but Trejo actually gets away. It’s Willem Dafoe (with a deliberately bad Mexican accent) who orders Mickey Rourke to kill him (he’s garroted) as a Chihuahua watches. This is the second time Trejo dies at the hands of Rourke. (See below for the other.)
Trejo plays a janitor at the institution where Michael Myers is locked up. When he finds Mikey wandering the halls and a fellow worker dead, he tries to cuff Mikey and bring him back to his room. But Mikey’s not too amenable to that. Not even a, “But I was good to you Mikey,” can save Trejo from repeated submersion in water and ultimately death by television (set).
This death scene scores high because of who does the killing and how that all plays out in light of Machete. Trejo plays a character rather unimaginatively named Trejo in this Michael Mann crime thriller. Robert De Niro is his executioner here and puts a bullet in his head. Trejo doesn’t exactly get to return the favor in Machete, but he gets to put De Niro’s bigoted senator in his place. A very nice turning of the tables.
As Razor Charlie, Trejo dies more than once making this one of his most memorable films. In fact, he’s no longer human, having lost his humanity long before the film starts. Trejo is a vampire that Quentin Tarantino stabs and thinks he kills. But Trejo bounces right back to life. It takes Tom Savini’s Sex Machine to really take him down by staking him with a pool cue. But this didn’t stop Trejo from coming back in the sequel (as Razor Eddie) and the prequel (reprising the role of Razor Charlie).
Okay, this is one lame ass movie but it does boast a most memorable Trejo death scene. It takes nearly half the movie to kill him and he comes back from the dead almost as often as Michael Myers. As Wallace, he’s a coked up criminal psychopath holding shoppers hostage in a mall. Mickey Rourke, still looking pretty darn good, takes on Trejo amidst scaffolding and construction with lots of paint cans biting the dust during their shoot out. Trejo gets covered in paint then shot, then beat up, then shot again, and finally gutted. This one gets the brass ring for the sheer difficulty of putting Trejo’s character down.