Movie Review: An Andean Homage to Martial Arts Classics — “The Fist of the Condor”

“The Fist of the Condor” transports the basic elements of your typical Bruce-Lee-in-Hong-Kong era martials arts “epic” to the beaches, biker bars and Andean mountains of Chile, and gives us all the archetypes of the genre speaking Spanish.

This old-fashioned “quest” reteams “Redeemer” director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and his martial arts muse, Marko Zaror for more wirework, more slo-motion, more training sequences and more “challenge” fights with a series of warrior foes, all of them in pursuit of the Condor fighting “manual,” a book pieced-together from the martial arts of the ancient Incan Empire.

Not that it did the Incans a bit of good.

It’s a film so wrapped up in “homage” that the story never amounts to much more than cut and paste, ahistorical, neo-mystical nonsense. About the only “Dragon” trait they didn’t replicate is the hilariously inept dubbing of the principals into English. This baby is Spanish, all the way.

But while it begins with “Oh BOY” promise and finishes with a half-hearted flourish, the back-story stuffed middle acts (Our bald hero in a bad wig, and our villain in a black feathered condor suit) are tedium itself. And the effort to set this up as a continuing saga leaves it amusingly, obviously and frustratingly incomplete.

Zaror, one of the fiercest figures in “John Wick Chapter 4,” has the vulpine look of a muscle-bound Mark Strong when he’s shaved his head to look like a martial arts monk. We meet “The Warrior” (El Guerrero) on the beach, challenged by a random young buck seeking what our hero does not have, the “Fist of the Condor” manual that helped him master his form of martial arts.

The kid is looking for the wrong guy. Who is the right guy?

“My twin.

What’s his “Achilles heel?”

“Photophobia.” You can foil the fiercest fighter this side of Donnie Yen with…a mirror and a little blinding sunlight.

Oh. It’s like that, is it? Why yes it is.

Wernher Schurmann (“Too Late to Die Young”) was fight choreographer here, and he stages several positively balletic brawls — pirouettes and jetes, punches thrown and dodged, somersaults by the score.

Our hero is constantly facing foes he has to tell “for the last time, I am NOT the ONE,” in growled Spanish with English subtitles.

He can’t park his motorcycle without getting challenged. But the places he parks are some of the most striking locations for a martial arts genre piece since those Golden Age Honk Kong classics of yore.

One villain wears too much eye shadow, because there’s one in every crowd, and every martial arts film. The training bits include the Wisdom of the East being handed down by Master Wook (Man Soo Yoon)…in Spanish, and the challenges of “The Condor Woman” (Gina Aguad), who takes a back seat to no one when it comes to inscrutable words to live by.

“See not with your eyes, but with your whole body!”

Director Espinoza does a fine job with the action beats and the epic settings. But every time this brief but not brisk genre thriller breaks into a new “Chapter,” aka “Chapter III: The Evil Guest,” he crosses from homage into parody and from master genre filmmaker into somebody whose “Achilles heel” is his screenwriting.

Rating: unrated, violence

Cast: Marko Zaror, Gina Aguad, Eyal Meyer and Man Soo Yoon

Credits: Scripted and directed by Ernesto Díaz Espinoza. A Hi-Yah!/Well Go USA release.

Running time: 1:22


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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