I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Redeemer

tn_redeemerIn REDEEMER, Marko Zaror plays The Redeemer, a mysterious, drifting avenger with a thing for Catholicism. He used to be a cartel hitman, now he’s fulfilling a big time penance. He’s got a full back tattoo of the crucifixion, carries a portable altar and various idols and penants of the saints, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wears socks sewn out of a corner of the Shroud of Turin. For 95% of the movie he keeps the hood of either his sweatshirt or his jacket up. It’s not raining, so I think it’s to make him look like a monk. And every day he kneels and does a prayer ritual. The weird part of it is when he rubs a bullet with a scorpion painted on it against his forehead, then plays Russian roulette. Kind of a quirky thing to do every single day, right? I guess maybe that’s a thing though. I wouldn’t know, I was raised Presbyterian.

Anyway this individual The Redeemer is wandering through Chile on foot when he comes across some jerks beating up a fisherman. He watches for a while before he saves the guy. He’s real good with guns, but he’s Marko Zaror, so he’s also got some incredible kicks and punches. By rescuing the guy and taking shelter in the nearby home of a single mother they all end up involved in the man’s troubles: he found a bunch of money in his fishing net, he took it, it turned out to belong to gangsters, they are not real understanding about it. So The Redeemer and friends hide in a cave while he broods and prays and doesn’t talk and makes plans to clear all this up.

Plan A: Get the gangsters to promise no harm in exchange for their money back.

Plan B: Kill them all and use the money for the mom’s kid’s operation.

The villains are a much more entertaining than usual take on the typical action movie drug cartel (for a control group, see CLOSE RANGE with Scott Adkins). Their boss is a dumb gringo played by Noah Segan (BRICK, LOOPER). He calls people “buddy,” tries to always be nice and make sure his guys are having a good time, and is self conscious about not having a cool nickname like The Redeemer does. He mostly speaks English and his translator isn’t always honest about what he’s saying, causing even more eye rolls and looks of disbelief on his men than the ones he earns. He must just be some dumb rich kid who paid his way into this position and bought alot of white suits. He doesn’t seem like a guy that would act calm and then suddenly shoot one of his men in the head in the middle of the living room, but he is.

mp_redeemerThat doesn’t mean he can take on The Redeemer, and it might seem weird to have such a comedic villain against a brooding, sad hero, but it works because his men, earnestly trying at a shitty job, are more formidable than he is. Also there’s a much scarier guy to worry about, a greasy-haired, open-shirted, gold-chain-and-shades-wearing executioner known as Scorpion (Jose Luis Mosca), seen killing Redeemer’s wife in flashback, and on a killing spree in the present.

The fights, choreographed by Zaror, are excellent long take one-on-ones or one-guy-running-through-a-house-taking-out-a-whole-bunch-of-heavily-armed-thugses that feel pretty grounded even though he does the occasional backflip, 360 kick or breakdancing-style windmill to get back on his feet from the ground. This does maybe the best job I’ve seen at the current trend of adding jiu-jitsu grappling into cinematic fights. It’s like an idealized version of an MMA fight where they move through submission holds and escapes one after the other, chess style. And they put alot of thought into how he breaks down his opponents, with subjective shots to show that he’s noticing a weakness like a limp or looking at a certain side to hit him on.

He takes out a whole bunch of nameless henchmen, but there are at least three prolonged mano-a-manos with established characters, some of them bad guys that we even kinda like because we’ve seen them have to put up with that dorky gringo.

At one point there’s a plot twist, maybe obvious, but I didn’t see it coming. It’s perfect because it doesn’t really complicate the simple plot, it just changes the context of what’s going on and makes us think a little bit about audience identification in movies, especially violent revenge stories. It ends up having more layers than it was letting on, but not in such a way as to interfere with the satisfaction of a long climactic duel.

Zaror is once again working with his main collaborator Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, who previously directed/wrote/edited him in KILTRO, MIRAGEMAN and MANDRILL. Espinoza also directed an ABC OF DEATH and a movie called BRING ME THE HEAD OF THE MACHINE GUN WOMAN, and he edited THE GREEN INFERNO.

The nice thing is that Zaror and Espinoza’s movies together keep getting better. They keep looking nicer, more sophisticated in the choreography and more masterful in the way their surface simplicity unpeels to reveal subtle questioning of traditional action movie values. They don’t need to be emotionally or morally complex, so they make you think they’re not and then they sneak up on you.

They also know how to showcase Zaror’s physical characteristics – his height, his huge fists, his wide, hunched-over shoulders. And while the characters have been pretty varied (he’s been kind of goth, a Latin James Bond, a vigilante super hero) they’ve done a good job of molding them around Zaror’s strengths. He always plays very internal characters, usually socially inept, expressing himself physically instead of with a bunch of dialogue. I’ve noted before that he’s an unusually sad action hero. He’s the asskicker who’s most in touch with his emotions. I think he’s already cried in more movies than Van Damme has in his long career. In this one if he cries it’s only in the flashback of his wife’s death, but I mean, the guy almost commits suicide every day. He’s a little gloomy.

If you’re not familiar with Zaror, you might have already seen him as the villain in UNDISPUTED III: REDEMPTION, or as himself getting cloned in MACHETE KILLS. I forgive you for not remembering the second one. Anyway KILTRO is his weirdest, MANDRILL is his suavest, and now this I think is probly his best.

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 Tuesday, March 8th, 2016 at 11:32 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 “Redeemer”

  1. This is the first Marko Zaror ( Mark of Zorro)-starring film I´ve seen, and it is very enjoyable. It does have the same problem like most martial arts films and it is that the fights feels a bit disconnected from the story, but otherwise it is great entertainment.

  2. While checking out of when the movie will be released in Germany, I’ve learned that it’s already out for a while: Under the title FIST OF GOD!

  3. FIST OF GOD- “God punches in mysterious ways”

  4. I also liked the dumb white villain, who saw it fit for his employers to come up with a cool sounding name for him. It was awkward as fuck.

  5. The Original Paul

    March 9th, 2016 at 2:34 am

    Man, I gotta see me some Marko Zaror films. I’ve never seen UNDISPUTED 2 or 3, even though I own them, which may have been a mistake; I got through #1 ok, but the only thing I really liked about it was Ving Rhames, who wasn’t in the sequels. I will have to remedy this. I have ordered KILTRO and MANDRILL on DVD. Let’s see how they turn out.

    THE REDEEMER is only available, as far as I can tell, on Region 1 DVD (I have long since gotten rid of the only thing I had that could play Region 1 DVDs). I couldn’t find FIST OF GOD either (they totally ripped off the title from a very readable Frederick Forsyth novel though). I hate region-locks. Let me buy your shit, you fuckers!

  6. No, there is a swedish region 2 dvd of REDEEMER released by Studio S ( or was it Njuta Films?)

  7. This one felt the most generic of any of the other Zaror/Espinoza joints. It could easily have been a Scott Adkins “sorta Mexican kung fu western” vehicle. But that’s okay, because it was still quite good. This is a solid filmmaking team and I’ll continue to buy their work sight unseen.

    As a recovering Catholic, I have to say that the Russian Roullete ceremony was my least favorite part of CCD.

  8. REDEEMER is on Netflix USA, or Smartflix, if you have that. It’s the only Marko Zaror movie on Netflix in the whole world. Guadalupe has UNDISPUTED III, but it doesn’t work.

  9. The Original Paul

    March 9th, 2016 at 8:35 am

    Shoot – I can’t even find the Swedish one, darn it. Maybe it’s got a slightly different or translated title.

  10. Well here is a link to purchasing a copy , but the site is in swedish:

    Redeemer

    Action från 2014 av Ernesto Díaz Espinoza med Marko Zaror och Noah Segan.

  11. The Original Paul

    April 5th, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Yeah, I’ve got the same problem with this one as with MANDRILL: I can find foreign copies of it, but they don’t have English subtitles in them. (One of them is bizarrely rated “U” for “Universal”. The same rating as the Care Bears movies. So that’s a thing.) This is frustrating because I thought KILTRO had a lot to recommend itself, and Vern’s saying that REDEEMER is better? I’ll keep a lookout and hopefully will be able to pick it up sometime soon.

  12. Paul, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of Zaror’s joints (not counting the couple he made in Mexico, CHINANGO and ENTRE LLAMAS, which were work for hire and completely lacking in that lovable idiosyncrasy his Espinoza collaborations have [I was particularly disappointed to discover that ENTRE LLAMAS does not translate to ENTER THE LLAMA, so it was a double letdown]) so if you can get your hands on MIRAGEMAN, it should serve you well until the other two fall into your lap.

  13. The Original Paul

    April 5th, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Majestyk – thanks! I’ll see if I can get a copy of MIRAGEMAN.

  14. Just caught this one on Netflix and loved it. Mandrill was pretty great, too, so I guess I need to go order Kiltro and Mirageman.

    I was not as crazy about the MMA style submission stuff that they threw in there – I was more into the parts where he was putting a fish hook through someone’s face or impaling them on animal horns on the wall. And there were some great shots tracking him around fights where they would do stuff like have the camera would follow him on the other side of the wall and catch up with him in the next room or hallway. Reminded me of some of the fight scenes in the Daredevil Netflix show.

    The villains in this were pretty great. I loved how the translator was such a dick. And when the white guy said they were going to buy ponchos and later they are hanging around the crib and he is the only one with a poncho.

    Anyway, I highly recommend that everyone with Netflix watch this immediately and then order his other movies.

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