So once again we have survived.

Kiltro

tn_kiltroKILTRO was the first Marko Zaror movie I saw, but for some reason I never reviewed it. Maybe it’s for the best, because I liked it then, love it now. It improves with age and extra viewings, like a wine that’s flavored by people looking at it (I don’t know). Later I did review MIRAGEMAN and of course UNDISPUTED III (where he’s the lead villain/opponent) but it wasn’t until seeing a screener of his finally-coming-to-video-this-week latest MANDRILL that I decided to revisit KILTRO. I’ll have a review of that new one up soon but first let’s examine the prototypical Zaror vehicle here.

Being a Chilean martial arts sensation, Zaror is nicknamed “The Latin Dragon,” but after KILTRO and MANDRILL I call him The Lovesick Dragon (more on that in my next CLiNT column). Here he plays Zamir, a weird loser who lives with his mom (who is nice to him but obviously disappointed that he hasn’t done more with his life) and spends all day mooning about this girl Kim (Caterina Jadrisic) that he’s been obsessed with ever since he rescued her from rapists and she kissed him. That was a legitimate Good Samaritan type event but ever since then he’s been a stalker, following her around as a self-appointed protector, waiting to re-create the incident if she gets attacked again. So that means he flips out and beats up the guys who she’s dating or who she dances with at a club.

mp_kiltroMost action stars try to make themselves look cool, but this character is more of a gloomy weirdo. He wears giant baggy pants (which I thought were a juggalo type style when I first saw this, but in retrospect probly just give him good mobility. Function before fashion) and his hair is dyed with red streaks on the back. He’s a timid social misfit, but he also comes across as a bully because he actually goes to the apartment where Kim’s new boyfriend Carlos “The Maniac” lives, shouts for him to come out and then beats him up while his friends cheer him on.

So it’s hard to say what he might’ve been like before he became obsessed with this girl. He does have friends, they’re almost like a gang. But they’re obviously kind of worn out from giving him love advice all the time.

Obsession with a girl is not only his problem, it’s the problem of all the men in the movie. In fact the plot really kicks in when the villain, Max Kalba (Miguel Angel De Luca) comes to town and starts massacring people as revenge for the time decades ago when his wife cheated on him with Kim’s dad (Man Soo Yoon). He’s the master of a tae kwan do studio, so Kalba storms in and starts fighting all the students at once just like Bruce Lee did in FIST OF FURY. But Kalba has some kind of evil sorcerer super powers, so he effortlessly murders all of them, chopping them up with a staff, crushing them or sending them flying through the air like they got hit by a train. After he’s done inside the studio he leaves and more people start running after him on the street and he does the same to them. Back-to-back massacres. But he leaves the master alive and takes him prisoner.

Well, there’s a whole sordid history to this thing and also some STAR WARS Jedis type shit going on. Little did Zamir know that his mysterious deceased father was part of a super powerful sect of martial artists who learned to tune their minds to a “Zeta state” that made them fight good. His mom hid it from him because she didn’t want him to get involved in all that shit, just like Luke Skywalker’s uncle tried to pull on him.

But Zamir wants to help his girl so he tracks down a master of the Zeta sect named Nik Nak (Roberto Avendano) and then gets sent to find washed-up Maestro Soto (Alejandro Castillo) and be trained in the forgotten ways. Soto obviously is the Yoda character in the movie but on the other hand Nik Nak – I hate to say it – is a little person. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he resembles Yoda. He’s Yodesque. (I don’t think that’s condescending to point out. Nik Nak is the one who says that he can’t defeat Max Kalba because “I’m old and I’m a dwarf.”)

Maestro Soto also tells of how heartbreak over a woman affected his life. These guys are all weepy romantics, and there’s lots of Zaror’s trademark soap opera melodramatics in their lives. Even while murdering people Kalba acts heartbroken and fingerpaints a big heart in a blood puddle. There is a training montage in front of a fake backdrop and then Zamir has to go out and “contemplate the desert” like Ang Lee’s Hulk. When Zamir comes back to town he’s a powerful warrior. He doesn’t have the goofy hair anymore but he does go shirtless and wears ritualistic face paint that looks like a domino mask. So he could still fit in at clubs, I’m sure.

One of the best fights involves newly Zeta-fied Zamir on a street taking on dozens of Kalba’s thugs in an entertaining variety of methods. He poses with nunchakas in an homage to one of Bruce Lee’s most iconic scenes, kicks at people with blades on his feet like a fighting cock, kicks a guy into a soccer goal (his skull pinging on the top, one of those dramatic shots that bounces in). This scene has alot of fake looking digital blood spurting from necks, but it’s so well choreographed that can’t kill it. It almost adds to the charm of it.

Director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza shows an early-Robert-Rodriguez type of enthusiasm for movies – a lovably juvenile mish-mash of genres that’s knowingly, unapologetically silly, but serious about it. Like the other Espinoza movies the music is by Rocco, as always showing a huge ’70s influence, including some pretty cheesy wah-wah sounds that are frankly a little white sounding. But the opening credits song puts a huge smile on my face because it’s a completely unhip type of ’70s influence, with disco violins and a bit of an easy listening vibe. More like some cheesy TV show than a blaxploitation classic. But in a good way.

Later, as Zamir’s life turns from sad love story to high adventure, the score turns into heavy Ennio Morricone homage. At times it’s a straight up ripoff of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. Again, in a good way. I love this movie.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, February 27th, 2012 at 1:04 am and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 Responses to “Kiltro”

  1. He spends all day mooning? What a weird dude. Also wonder if the name Nik Nak is a reference to The Man With The Golden Gun, I think the little person in that had the same name.

    So far I have only seen a couple of fight scenes from Kiltro on youtube, those were very entertaining so I might have to hunt this down and watch it in full. I definitely like Zaror, he was a great villain in Undisputed 3. As much as I like Adkins, it would have been cool if they’d kept to the Undisputed tradition and have Zaror be the good guy in the next one.

  2. It’s a great movie – it’s like the 70s kung fu grindhouse film Jodorowsky never made – and hopefully this review will prompt a few more people to pick it up.

    Zaror really should be the next big thing, he’s incredible.

    Mike A – this (and MIRAGEMAN) is up on Amazon for pennies.

    Vern – have you seen MANDRILL? Are you planning on reviewing it soon?

  3. Uh…please disregard my last sentence.

    This is what happens when I speed-read at work.

    Sorry.

  4. http://youtu.be/_O7J-1lv1RI

    I always just assumed with a name like Kiltro, this was about a cyborg or something.

  5. Very fun, very very strange movie.

    Vern’s plot description might be accurate and all, but it still makes very little sense. It’s kinda awesome, though.

    Same thing for the costumes, make up, visual effects, and tonal consistency of the narrative — ridiculous, weird, blatantly subpar for a legit feature film, but kinda awesome. I’m glad the filmmakers didn’t have more of a budget.

    I recommend the making of extra feature on the dvd. You get to see some very funny decapitations and flying kicks.

  6. This movie sounds insane. I will definitely make it a point to watch it (and luckily it is streaming on Netflix). With so many b-movies becoming major blockbusters these days (like that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and most Nicolas Cage movies), I wonder what the state of the b-movie is? This probably doesn’t necessarily affect foreign films like Kiltro, but at least in the states, b-movies now have to compete with their much more expensive brethren.

  7. It’s been that way since the STAR WARS and JAWS took schlock sci-fi and monster movies and turned them into big budget mainstream productions. All your average summer blockbuster is is a Roger Corman flick on steroids.

  8. and the wide majority of B-movies these days are just ripoffs of their big budget brethren

  9. In my day a b-movie was 70 minutes long and had Randolph Scott in it. Kids these days.

  10. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this film (and the other two from this guy). This looks brilliant.

  11. I finally got around to seeing this movie yesterday (it’s available for instant watching on Netflix), and the movie does not disappoint. It is just as weird and wonderful as Vern describes. I really love the scene where the main character starts running down the street at night to the sounds of Bowie’s “Modern Love,” which is then cut off when he gets hit by a car. The movie is also surprisingly beautiful. There’s some wonderful images of Chile’s landscapes. The fake sets also look pretty great and remind me of some of the sound stages used by John Ford.

  12. The Original Paul

    March 18th, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Ok. So… watching this one before reading review / spoilers. I’m about 20 minutes in and it’s weird, weird shit. The DVD I’ve got is in Spanish, but thankfully this one has English subtitles (MANDRILL did not).

    The opening scene seems to be Marko Zaror in a cave with his personal Yoda (grrrrr), together with some beautiful scenery and music.

    Then abruptly… next scene… and we’re in urban gangland with the cheapest, hokiest music I’ve heard in a movie for a while. It sounds like bad stock-music. It’s such a sudden and dramatic downturn in quality. I’m hoping the “urban” thing is a small part of the movie, because it’s not working for me.

    Zaror is intense. Just… intense. He’s obsessed with the daughter of a martial-arts master and won’t leave her alone (which seems like a really, really good way to get yourself punched hard in the throat). It’s ok though, because he rescued her from being robbed, and possibly raped, when she was younger. Still major creep factor here. I don’t know about this one, guys.

    30 minutes in: Holy shit, Dracula just came in and killed everybody! [Spoilers.] What the heck is with the Western music all of a sudden? I won’t argue that it’s not a huge improvement on the music over the opening titles… but did I just get KILL BILL’ed? Is that even a verb? Or a thing?

    40 minutes in: anybody else noticed that in movie-world, the way you know if that girl is “the one” for you is if you meet her when she’s performing ballet, or belly-dancing, or fighting off a horde of bandits? Nobody meets their true love in a bar, or at a wedding, or on a train or something. Unless she’s Sandra Bullock.

    45 minutes and 50 seconds in: BWAHAHAHA! (You’ll understand when you watch the film. Unless the timings are slightly “off”, in which case you’ll probably be very confused.) Anyway, we’re well-away from the “urban” thing now. It’s a definite improvement.

    47 minutes in: did Marko Zaror just walk across Central America? I mean, really?

    “Life just dealt you a bad hand.” “That’s why I fight against life!” Yep, he’s Dracula.

    Over an hour in and there’s been only two substantial action scenes. This is surprising. The film’s all about waiting, and it isn’t scared of focussing on the “build-up”.

    One hour and twelve minutes in: did Zaror just use lipstick as freakin’ war-paint? Also, Zaror uses war-paint now?

    One hour and eighteen minutes in: GOOOAL! (Ok, seriously, that fight scene was just awesome. Some seriously good wire-fu there.)

    One hour and twenty-five minutes in: The most random use of “that damn cat” ever.

    One hour and twenty-eight minutes in: And they did it again! Do the guys who made this movie think that guys jump-kicking other guys cause random cats to start squealing? Also I’m pretty sure that that sword is cursed. That, or it really, really didn’t like the guy wielding it. Which is understandable.

    ****

    Ok, final thoughts.

    I was going to watch this movie in one sitting and just post what I thought about it afterwards, but there were so many things that just struck me about it that I felt as though I wanted to write some of ’em down. So I did. Here.

    So the movie starts out with that scene in the cave, which is beautifully filmed, beautifully scored, and surreal. Then it moves to the concrete jungle, which is… not. Any of those things. Yeah, for the first twenty minutes or so of this movie I was worried. And not just because the production quality went way, way down for those scenes; “diaries of an asshole stalker” is not what I have in mind when I imagine a good action movie.

    Happily, once it gets past this part and the villain is introduced (and what an introduction it is), the movie picks up. Hell, that’s an understatement. This movie has an excellent villain. By the time we see him in the present-day he’s 1) almost a soulless killer (thereby making the rare moments where he does show fleeting emotion all the more powerful), and 2) almost certainly a vampire. Yep, this villain has a name (Max, I think), but nobody’s ever going to call him that, because:

    1) He’s introduced in a dark street, at night, wearing a giant cape, doing a classic slow-motion “flanked by black-clad henchmen” villain-entry walk,
    2) I’m pretty sure we never actually see him exposed to sunlight in the present day,
    3) He’s basically styled in a manner that’s 1/3rd Gary Oldman, 2/3rds Christopher Lee, and
    4) It takes a sharp object through the heart to kill him – nothing else can do it, not even a bullet through the chest.

    Yeah, this guy is a far more convincing Dracula than Zero Cool was. Has has the look, the immaculate styling, the freakish agelessness, the “don’t know whether I want to fuck you or eat you” thousand-yard-stare, the forboding dialogue delivered in hypersexualised monotone, everything. Hell, I’m as straight as a pool cue, and I’m pretty sure he could talk me into bed with him. That’s impressive.

    The worst thing about this movie is its inconsistencies. The production values vary quite a lot (thankfully its worst parts are all at the beginning), and the scoring is also really inconsistent. I’ve re-read Vern’s review, and while I agree with him 100% on the “Western-style” scoring, I also have to say that the movie is far from consistent with this. Some of the time, especially early on, it relies on this really cheap-sounding generic music that wouldn’t be acceptable in a TV-movie version of LAW AND ORDER or something, let alone in an action movie of this one’s scope and scale. Thankfully, the worst instance of this comes really early on, and things improve a great deal later.

    On the other hand, what I love about this movie is its confidence. For better or worse, this is a movie that sells its vision with complete focus – no matter how ridiculous that vision gets. At one point in the movie, Zaror’s [SPOILER] father – seriously, did anybody not see that coming? – gives him a bunch of drugs to knock him out and give him plot-convenient amnesia. The following day, Zaror wakes up naked in the desert. Why is he naked? Or in the desert, for that matter? I have no freakin’ idea, and I’m not sure the movie does either. But it plays it completely straight. I’m sure I’m going to be the only one who ever compares these two films, but it kinda reminds me of WARM BODIES in that respect – WARM BODIES being another film that takes the stupidest premise imaginable and just commits to it so much that it completely sold itself to me. KILTRO doesn’t have a dumb premise, but the amount of seriously weird shit that it expects you to accept from it is kind of insane. It makes no apologies for what it is, and I admire it for that, even when it doesn’t quite work.

    It’s also a movie that doesn’t like to rush things. This movie is 90% buildup. So that when the explosions do come, they make that much more impact. The few fight scenes that there are in this film are brutal – people get their throats slashed, chests cut open, etc – but they’re also done really well. Oddly, the film is at its least serious during the fight scenes. During the quieter moments it’s very introspective, with long dialogue-free stretches that focus almost entirely on cinematography, and many long conversations about the nature of love and obsession – then when the fights start, you get random cat sound effects, ridiculous wire-fu, and bodies being kicked into football goals. I put this under the heading of “shouldn’t work, but somehow does”. The movie is prepared to change up its tone to keep the audience on its toes (and also to accommodate a whole bunch more weird shit). I like that.

    I really liked this movie. I liked its patience, its dedication to a singular vision, and its utter self-confidence that what it was doing would work (even when it kinda didn’t). I’m glad I saw it, anyway. Good recommendation guys!

  13. The Original Paul

    March 18th, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    Mouth – sadly the DVD I got (the only Region 2 one I could find) didn’t have that special feature on it. Would’ve liked to have seen it as well, because I totally agree with your assessment of the movie.

  14. Finally caught upnwith this one. Really odd movie as all the above reviews and comments indicate. The opening 20 minutes or so with the hero being a downright doofus are probably the most baffling, but most unique. Zardor really reminded me of Travolta in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, rebel without a clue wandering around an urban nightmare with his similar numb nut buddies…

    As a whole, I don’t think I liked it as much as Vern. Just really took a LONG time to get going I guess.

    But one thing that made me go from “men” to really liking was the end credit shit. The slow, still walk towards a very fake (I think) practical effect sun, with that 70s grove playing. That was awesome, truly awesome. And it was that moment that I really thanked Vern for unburing some truly oddball gems like this. This one honestly would have snuck by me if not for this review!

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