Redeemer (2015)

Reviewed by Scott Blasingame
September 9, 2015


Marko Zaror • Loreto Aravena • Jose Luis Mosca • Mauricio Diocares • Boris Smirnow • Daniel Maraboli • Otilio Castro • Constanza Araya • Nelson Nunez • Noah Segan
Ernesto Diaz Espinoza
Marko Zaror
Widescreen. Spanish (and English) audio, with English subtitles

What happens when a hit man gets religion? I’m not sure, but one would think the two definitely don’t go together. Still, it makes for an interesting perspective in the new film REDEEMER, another collaborative effort by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and Marko Zaror. The story involves former hit man Nicky Pardo (Zaror) who had once been one of the drug cartel’s best assassins. When his wife and unborn child are murdered by a rival cartel’s assassin known as Alacorn or ‘The Scorpion’, Pardo goes straight… sort of. He becomes both hit man and vigilante, taking on those who harm innocent people, thus developing a reputation as the ‘Redeemer’. This is due to the fact that he desires to make up for all the wrong he’s done in his past. One way he seeks to do that is to engage in a rather disturbing ritual at the start of each day, and based on its outcome, he’ll set out to find someone on whom he can execute his special form of justice as a means of penance. But the Scorpion is not done with Pardo, and eventually vengeance comes due.

Espinoza and Zaror work well together, having made KILTRO (2006), MIRAGEMAN (2007), and MANDRILL (2009). They are essentially a South American team similar to Isaac Florentine and Scott Adkins. Two directors/writers and their martial artist/leading man muses. Adkins and Zaror even fought one another on screen in Florentine’s UNDISPUTED III: REDEMPTION (2010), and were fantastically pitted against each other. (How cool would it be to see Adkins face Zaror again, only in one of Espinoza’s films? Maybe one day.)

Espinoza & Zaror have played with characters that were both a vigilante, in MIRAGEMAN, and an assassin, in MANDRILL. So while this isn’t necessarily new territory in that regard, the tact they take in this movie, in having a character that combines the two, is interesting. Notice I said ‘the tact they take’. It’s not like this hasn’t been done before, but the way they go about it is slightly different, and is driven home by how Pardo’s path reached this point with very short flashbacks. When he and the Scorpion finally face one another, you have both a catalyst and an outcome that are steeped in irony. And I love irony.

Thematically, you can’t discuss this film without discussing redemption. (I mean d’uh! It’s in the title.) Pardo isn’t solely motivated out of selfish reason. While his actions of vigilantism are a form of absolution for his past life as a killer, he also wants to avenge the wrongs done against innocent victims. He wants to make things right, not just for himself, but also for others, to redeem them from the violence they have suffered.

The plot isn’t anything new, but it isn’t trite, and the story progresses at a good pace. Pardo is a man of action and few words, but both tell his story well. There is a proper balance in the plot and action, each advancing and building the other. Many of the scenes are sedate, and there’s not a lot of color so to speak, but it adds to the fact that each day of Pardo’s life is another day of atonement to get through. It’s a sort of violent monotony. (Oh! That’s a good band name!) Other characters of interest are Mr. Bradock (Noah Segan), and his Chilean interpreter Ringo (Daniel Maraboli). They are dangerously egotistical,  yet also quite humorous.

Now, let’s talk action, and there’s a ton of it. While there are moments of gunplay, Zaror is a superb martial artist, and as the film’s fight coordinator, he showcases himself very well. There are a total of 6 major fight scenes, and they are quite involved. My only issue was really with the opening sequence. There were a couple of places where I thought the editing was a tad off, and even a few instances of under-cranking that were a little too under-cranked. But I’m nitpicking. (Maybe Zaror was experimenting, and I’ve got no problem with that.) What is so great, is that the fights all build in intensity and complexity, and that’s smart on Zaror’s part. He’s a dynamic kicker, but here he refrains from using too many aerial moves, which can often become a crutch for some screen fighters. That’s not to say he doesn’t pull any off, because they’re certainly there. He seemed to prefer to rely on well-choreographed sequences that combine his speed, strength, agility, and acumen. He uses powerful hand combos interspersed with kicks that lash out like a striking serpent.

His best fight takes place midway through the film against Icaro (Nelson Nunez), and is brutal and well-grounded. In any other film, something like this might rock on for about one minute or so, and that would be it. Not here. It starts off high energy, and builds on that. Every time I thought it had reached its conclusion, it actually entered another stage. It ends with an appropriate finishing move, too. Superb fight; very re-watchable! His climactic fight against the Scorpion, played by Jose Luis Mosca, began rather slowly, but it soon picked up. Zaror wholeheartedly sells his fights, even when he’s getting his head handed to him. But once he rallies, he demonstrates a vicious lethalness, and again ends the battle with violent finesse.

This is an excellent movie, and if you’ve never taken a chance on any of Zaror’s previous films, this is good place to start. It’ll make you want to seek out his earlier work. Here you see his maturity as screen fighter and choreographer. There you will see a performer hungry to demonstrate what he is capable of. Either way, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by what you find. Support this, and spread the word. We need talent to keep this genre alive and make it thrive. If anyone can help save it, the REDEEMER can.