Chilean martial arts action/western Redentor (aka Redeemer) has its sights set on capturing the pulpy ultra-violent tone of the likes of Drive, Machete, and Django Unchained, but never comes close to these greats in terms of style or entertainment.
Ernesto Díaz Espinoza writes and directs this picture which follows a former hit-man Pardo (Marko Zaror) posing as a vigilante to pay for his sins and find redemption. He’s pit against American drug lord Bradoc (Noah Segan), but this fight brings trauma from Pardo’s past to the forefront.
Zaror’s skills as a martial artist should not be understated with the actor showcasing a full range of impressive looking kicks, punches, flips, and spins. There are no limits in Pardo’s destruction of his enemies and the man of few words even adapts the world around him into weapons from boat propellers to teeth-yanking pliers. These fight scenes are filmed in a slick, punchy fashion by Espinoza and always presented with clear non-frantic editing to ensure Zaror’s martial arts prowess is always visible. There is a grisly brutality to these action scenes which feel fitting considering Espinoza’s revengesploitation leanings, but there is something inherently forgettable about this garish tableaux morts.
As much as attempts at humour and fun are established (notably in Segan’s dim-witted US drug lord), Pardo is such a humourless protagonist that there is a painful dullness about this. Espinoza emphasises Pardo’s pious ways – when the former hit-man isn’t butchering, he’s praying or fiddling with his religious memorabilia. Chuck in continued requests that enemies “Get on your knees and ask God for forgiveness,” played completely straight, and you have a completely ridiculous protagonist. The blend between intense piety and ultra-violence never sits right – especially when played entirely with zero laughs or sly winks by Zaror.
The baking Chilean locales are captured with a woozy sun-stroked beauty by cinematographer Nicolás Ibieta, whilst Claudio Rocco’s electronic score evokes the pulpy nostalgic atmosphere that Espinoza’s narrative fails to.
Zaror’s excellent martial arts choreography and punchy fight scenes ensure that Redentor is not a complete write-off, but Espinoza’s film never reaches the pulpy levels of entertainment that it should.
Genre: Action, Crime | Distributor: XYZ Films| Venue: Edinburgh International Film Festival | Director: Ernesto Díaz Espinoza| Cast: Marko Zaror, José Luís Mósca, Loreto Aravena, Mauricio Diocares, Boris Smirnov, Otilio Castro, Nelson Nuñez, Daniel Maraboli, Noah Segan