J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Redeemer: Marko Zaror Smites Bad Guys

You could say this former hitman runs a particularly effective faith-based initiative. He will seek out the unjustly victimized that are pure of heart, to rain down payback on those who wronged them. In many cases, the faithful do not even know he has taken on their causes. He simply hears their prayers and answers them in Ernesto Díaz Espinoza’s Redeemer (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

He was once a happily married killer by the name of Nicky Pardo, but he is now known simply as “The Redeemer.” He starts each morning with a refreshing round of Russian roulette. Every time he survives, he interprets it as sign the man upstairs still wants him to continue administering retribution in his name. Some really heavy business went down in his past, involving his nemesis, “The Scorpion.” Unbeknownst to the Redeemer, the Scorpion trails along after him, killing the innocent people the Redeemer set out to avenge, in elaborately Biblical fashion. That might sound terribly cruel, but he is not called the Scorpion because he likes to play patty-cake.

The Redeemer will have his work cut out for him when he blows into a seaside village dominated by a drug cartel. When he saves a sad sack fisherman from his drug trafficking tormentors, the syndicate essentially declares war on the vigilante. It will not work out so well for them, but it gives the Scorpion time to catch up with his prey.

When someone as hardnosed as the Redeemer offers you a chance to repent, you should probably take it. Conversely, taking him on is not such a hot idea, even you are part of a pack of six or seven thugs. Let’s face it, Redeemer is not the most sophisticated action film to strut into theaters, but holy cats, can Zaror fight. He has weird grappling style MMA moves like you have never seen before, all of which look awesome on screen. Frankly, Zaror never talks much, but he does not need to say a lot when his piercing eyes glower out from under his hoodie.

In many ways, Redeemer is like a throwback to the grittily effective but not exactly over-ambitious films that launched the careers of butt-kicking superstars like JCVD and even Bruce Lee. The narrative is a rather simplistic affair, intentional designed to keep out of the way of the action showcases (yet, somehow Espinoza manages to have three credit co-screenwriters. Seriously, how many scribes did it take to write “they squint at each other and then start fighting?”) It doesn’t matter. The martial arts is the thing in Redeemer, spectacularly choreographed by Zaror. In fact, there is a show-stopping one-on-one with a no-name henchman midway through the film that could easily stand as the climax of most action releases.

This is Zaror’s show, but José Luís Mósca is all kinds bad ass as the Scorpion, while American Noah Segan provides some legitimate, non-cringey comic relief as Bradock, the new Yankee cartel boss. It might be too unpolished for casual viewers, but for genre fans there is something refreshingly honest about a film like Redeemer. It is also one of the rare Chilean films old man Pinochet would probably have approved of. After all, what’s not to like about an ultra-devout vigilante? Recommended for action fans hungry for red meat, Redeemer opens this Friday (6/12) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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