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Review: Mandrill (2009)

Posted in Marko Zaror, Miguel Angel De Luca with tags on February 24, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Marko Zaror, Miguel Angel De Luca, Tio Chone, Celine Reymond

Fight Choreography by Marko Zaror

Directed By Ernesto Diaz Espinoza

Marko Zaror broke out onto the scene with his first film Kiltro followed by Mirageman, and while both films had their problems, he showed that he has what it takes to be a major martial arts action star. This was cemented beyond reproach when he starred opposite Scott Adkins in the fantastic Undisputed 3, and now returns starring as Mandrill with his Kiltro and Mirageman director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza. So how did their third collaboration go?

Marko Zaror plays Antonio Espinoza, aka Mandrill, who say his parents killed by a man known as the Cyclops (!) when he was a child, and just like Bruce Wayne adopts a new persona as the bounty hunter Mandrill, always taking jobs he thinks will get him closer to finding his parents’ killer. Soon Mandrill does get the job that leads him to his nemesis, but things don’t go as planned as he falls in love with the Cyclops’ daughter, Dominique. Things go from bad to worse to downright odd as his actions creates a chain reaction that finds him fighting Dominque herself for his life…

Kiltro was a damn odd film. It had too many flashbacks and odd moments that came from no where (especially the David Bowie moment, which has to be seen to be believed), and Mandrill has some of the same problems that Kiltro had, but unlike that film, this is a slick production, with great locations and a fantastic James Bond-style soundtrack. Marko Zaror plays morose very well, but this time he balances this with a sense of fun. He clearly loves playing this James Bond-style killer, and he really does a good job. His acting has improved a lot since Kiltro. Celine Reymond is smoldering as Dominque, and her transformation from a withdrawn heiress to vicious killer is fun to see.

I mentioned this film was odd, and it is. The constant flashbacks to his teen years learning the art of seduction from his Uncle was downright… well it was kinda creepy. There’s also a montage sequence of Mandrill and Dominque that comes at the midpoint of the film that’s just downright strange. It all starts with a dance sequence and it’s a WTF moment that gets odder from there (is odder even a word?). The ending of the film will leave you with a mix of ‘what the hell was that’ and ‘cool!’ In what is equally strange but yet my favorite scenes in the film are the sequences where we flashback to a fictional TV show called John Colt, about a latino super secret agent that Mandrill loved as a child and teenager, and emulates in his clothing and fighting. It’s a hilarious ode to that period of time in the 60’s and 70’s when those shows were prevalent. I wouldn’t mind an entire film based around the character.

The fight scenes are really top notch work. Marko has a great fight toward the beginning with Miguel Angel De Luca, who played the main villain in Kiltro, and their rematch is a much better shot fight in this film. My favorite fight involves, of all things, a dude who looks like an older security guard looking ripe for the cannon fodder chuck wagon, probably named “random old security guy #8”  but it was like he decided “Damn what the script says! I’m gonna bring the thunder!” and he does, giving Mandrill all kinds of trouble that was a nice change to see: a no-name guy just bringing a fantastic fight with absolutely no warning to Marko Zaror. What a great scene! The final three-on-one fight is great as well, and shows that Espinoza has really improved his camera work over time, just as Zaror has improved his fight choreography.

I won’t even get into the acrobatic moves Zaror pulls off throughout the film. For a man his size it shouldn’t be possible, but he’s simply amazing doing it.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Marko Zaror and the stuntmen do a great job in this film. The fights are plentiful and mixed in well with all the other goings-on. Once again, the fight with the security guard rocked, and the fight with the three final opponents was also great. Good to see De Luca onscreen again.

STUNTWORK: (9) The stuntmen really came to play in this film, and do great work here, taking some nasty falls and sold the hits really well, and were even able to bring a little “thunder” to their parts.

STAR POWER: (9) Marko Zaror is getting better and better with every film he does. A great new talent. I hope he appears in Undisputed 4. The sky is the limit for Zaror, and  so help me Hollywood, you better not screw this up! Get this man a big budget film!

FINAL GRADE: (9) Mandrill is a fun 60’s style secret agent romp with great martial-art fight scenes and a star-making performance by Marko Zaror!  So when do we get a sequel?

 

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Review: Kiltro (2008)

Posted in Marko Zaror, Miguel Angel De Luca with tags , , on March 5, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Marko Zaror, Catarina Jadresic, and Miguel Angel De Luca

Fight Choreography by Marko Zaror

Directed by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza

Martial artist Marko Zaror makes his feature film debut in Kiltro, a film that has one of the slowest starts to any martial arts film I’ve ever seen, and gets better as the film goes on, but just as quickly crashes into WTF zone and never returns.

The film follows Zamir (Zaror) a young man who runs with a gang called the Kiltros who run around Chile evidently cheering Zamir on as he uses rough martial arts to beat up every jackass in town that dates Kim, and what makes this quite creepy is the fact that she isn’t his girlfriend. Not only that, but he’s been stalking her to the point that he beats the shit out of a dude for even dancing with her in a club! Meanwhile, we get glimpses of a midget running around wearing some sort of makeup looking like a super deformed Gandalf watching Zamir and whatever the hell else. You’ll be waiting until most of the way through this film before you know what he’s about. The first fight occurs when Zamir follows Kim home, and into her father’s dojo, who happens to be a Korean martial arts master, and Kim tries to get Zamir killed by mistranslating what her father is telling him and what he’s saying to him to get her father’s students to attack Zamir, who beats them all down. The fight is a good showcase of Zaror’s skills, but is stunted due to the skill level Zamir is supposed to have.  The editing here is good in some places and dodgy in others.

We come to find out that Zamir lives with his mother, and learned some martial arts from his father, who disappeared long ago without a trace. Zamir lives aimlessly, only wanting to get into random fights and hang out with the Kiltros. You’ll have to endure a lot of Zamir walking around hang-dog until he learns that Kim is dating one of the very dudes he beat the crap out of, which causes a depressed Zamir to walk the streets of Chile to a David Bowie song. I can’t even kid you about this.

The good thing is that when this scene ends, we are introduced to Max Kalba (De Luca), a martial artist who, with his two androgynous Asian sidekicks pay a visit to the local tailor, an Asian man who appears to know martial arts but is killed by Kalba too early to know how good he may have been. After this he pays a visit to the Korean master in his dojo, and beats up or kills most of his students. Of course Zamir goes in to help, and has his ass kicked out of a window. What was neat about this scene is that you see through Zamir’s eyes as he gets kicked and blacks out. You then see when he wakes up…outside. Now you know what it looks like from your perspective of getting kicked out of a window. The Kiltros come to help Zamir, but all they do is get killed, and his best buddy among them gets the worst of it when he tries to punch Kalba and Kalba uses his cane with a tiger claw hand at the end to de-testicle Zamir’s bro, and lets him lie on the ground in pain for a few seconds before finishing him off. Zamir is able to escape, thanks to that damn midget, now named Nik Nak, who is able to carry a six-foot five Chilean dude over a distance of at least a mile away to his hideout on the coast, and I  officially call bullshit on that one, because Max Kalba can’t find them, as if tracing a midget carrying a big six foot tall latin man with a mullet with red bangs on the ends on his back would be difficult!

Nik Nak sends Zamir off to find a martial arts master named Master Soto, who can teach Zamir the skills he needs to face Kalba and his men in one last battle, and learn the truth of who he really is, and why Kalba is killing off a group of martial arts masters.

This is a truly silly film that wants to be too much and in doing so becomes about nothing. They were trying to pattern the film using the plots from typical Shaw Brothers kung-fu films: Young man is raised not knowing where he gets his martial arts skills from, and is aimless until an enemy of his father’s runs around town killing off all martial arts masters, and said young man must go to the outskirts of town and learn martial arts from an old master who has unorthodox methods of teaching…and can usually be found in a seedy bar getting drunk. Once he learns he returns home to face the villain in one last battle.

Yeah, that accounts for many kung-fu films, which isn’t bad in and of itself, but the love story they tagged on was more creepy than anything else. One, the Korean girl looks all of 16 wearing that Japanese school girl outfit (!) and Marko looks to be in his twenties, and two, the way he follows her everywhere she goes. This and the fact that we have to spend the first 20 minutes of the film following this before the film actually get to the point.  Marko Zaror is a skilled fighter, and jeez, is he a big Latino!  He does show off his skills, and his acrobatics for someone his size is fantastic. His acting is fair, and he does as well as he can with the script, but the character of Zamir is not very compelling. He’s a sad sack the entire film, and Zaror never gets to show off any charm because of it.  The other actors do okay, but nothing worth mentioning.  The final series of fights are over far too quickly, but they do get to get Zaror really cut loose, but there is just not enough of it for what we had to put up with before. The final battle with Kalba barely registers as there isn’t much real fighting in it (I don’t think De Luca knows martial arts with the way they quick edit his fight scenes).

Kiltro introduces us to Marko Zaror, but isn’t the tour de force introduction that it should have been. We’ll have to wait a bit longer to see Zaror going full-out.  In this case the direction really fails him. Too many scenes look like they were filmed on a soundstage, and some of it actually does look like it was filmed for more of a stage play than a movie. The story needed to be edited down more, and spends too much time bogged down in a creepy love story.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (5) It’s not horrible, but does look like a first-timer did this, which I believe Zaror was at the time. That, and there was too little of it for a martial arts film.

STUNTWORK:(8) The stuntmen came to work on this one, and took some real hits in some places.

STAR POWER: (6) Marko will go on to much better things, but other than him, there is no one else worth mentioning. It’s unknown judging by this film how much charisma he has because of the character he plays.

FINAL GRADE: (6) This is not a good film, and not the best debut, but Marko–and Director Ernesto Espinoza– will bounce back and go on to do far better films, but you want to steer clear of this one.