Martial arts and meditation are two practices that each have the other in their DNA, and that is something that “Fist of the Condor” deeply understands itself.
Marko Zaror’s latest low-budget Chilean reel of flashy butt-kicking to team him with director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, “Fist of the Condor” is both as action-packed as they come and far less aggressive than its title implies. This one takes a calm, meditative mindset that is both peaceful and refreshing.
Marko Zaror portrays the dual roles of both El Guerrero and his identical twin brother Gemelo, with Gina Aguad playing his mentor, The Condor Woman.
Man Soo Yoon also appears as Wook, with Marla being played by Fernanda Urrejola. Many talents stuntmen and martial artists also make up the supporting cast, including Eyal Meyer also playing a formidable Kalaripayattu exponent.
Guerrero and his twin brother Gemelo were trained in the ways of the martial arts to become highly skilled warriors with the mysterious Condor Woman, with their combat skills being of paramount importance to their mission.
Specifically, there’s a mythical book containing the combat secrets once used by their ancestors against Spanish conquistadors, which is to be passed on to his next successor.
Guerrero soon finds himself battling an array of opponents from different arts in pursuit of the book, with both Gemelo and a formidable Kalari warrior hatching their own plan to retrieve the book and take vengeance upon Guerrero.
At just 83 minutes long, the runtime of “Fist of the Condor” is both a strength and a weakness.
“Fist of The Condor” is Economical, but a Tad too Short
The movie is highly economical in its fight scenes and training montages, and plays almost like a book with chapters delineating where the story is on-screen.
“Fist of the Condor” really knows how to use this chapter format to its fullest, with each one almost singularly devoted to a specific aspect of Guerrero’s story, and many even framing themselves around specific fight scenes like a book or manga.
The trade-off is that, for as organized and streamlined as it is in structuring its chapters for maximum impact, “Fist of the Condor” is still a bit on the short side.
While an entire added chapter might not have been necessary, even an extra five minutes or so could have still been to its benefit.
This Movie is Extremely Reverential of Martial Arts
With that being said, “Fist of the Condor” is a love letter to martial arts in the true meaning of the term.
“Fist of the Condor” is almost religiously reverential to martial arts, with the movie’s training montages of Guerrero and Gemelo’s martial upbringing being right out of a pilgrimage to the Shaolin Temple (Marko evidently really eager to emphasize that with Guerrero’s shaved head and monk-like garb).
Under the Condor Woman, some of their training does venture a bit into the overtly fantastical with Guerrero learning to leap ten feet into the air while walking on his hands, but the love for martial arts on display is so infectious that it’s easy to buy within the context of the story.
Marko Zaror is on Fire in “Fist of The Condor”!
As both Guerrero and Gemelo, Marko Zaror is captivating and enthralling throughout “Fist of the Condor”.
Martial arts fans have seen Marko play everything from pure-hearted heroes in “Mirageman” to deliciously arrogant villains in “Undisputed 3: Redemption”, but never has he played such a Zen-focused protagonist as is the case for Guerrero in “Fist of the Condor”.
With a laser-like gaze that could have been carved out of solid stone, Marko’s picture-perfect kicks, flips, and a minimum of one Bruce Lee-style one-inch punch are beyond astonishing to behold in “Fist of the Condor”.
The same is the case for the many opponents Guerrero battles in the movie, ranging from bikers to fellow monk-like warriors. The movie’s fight choreography has enough impact power to feel necessarily real, but “Fist of the Condor” is meticulous to a fault in that every technique of every fight scene looks as sharp and refined as possible.
The opening beach fight and Guerrero’s aforementioned battle with a biker most certainly meet that standard, but then there’s the finale of “Fist of the Condor”.
The Final Fight is Crisp, Fast, and Amazing!
The final showdown of Guererro against Gemelo’s handpicked final henchmen packs everything “Fist of the Condor” has to offer in its final reel.
Homaging Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris’ final Colosseum fight in “Way of the Dragon” with the two fighters warming up before their duel, it’s another clear martial arts tribute of the many to be found in “Fist of the Condor”, but it’s also completely unique.
With Marko’s shaved head and monk-like garb, it’s conceivably the first Shaolin vs. Kalari final showdown ever to be showcased in the martial arts film. Marko and Eyal Meyer practically freeze frame into picture-perfect stance work in between each strike, and the whole showdown is just a blaze of the meticulous and unusually peaceful action that makes up “Fist of the Condor” (even if the conclusion veers a tad on the unexpectedly bloody side.)
Like a Chilean Shaw Brothers movie, “Fist of the Condor” is what martial arts movie lovers live for.
Admittedly, its short runtime is its biggest shortcoming, but only a slight one with the chapter-structured storytelling, Zen-like feeling of serenity, and martial arts fights that are as flawlessly picture-book as any can get.
If Marko’s one-two punch of “John Wick: Chapter 4” and “Fist of the Condor” isn’t a double-whammy feature kung fu theater crafted by the sheer power of destiny, nothing is!
- “You got to understand that you are nothing’, the Master used to say. You have nothing to prove, nothing to defend. Look at your pain. Look at it from its core. Inhabit it and transform yourself into it.” – Guerrero.
- “You think he sent you to get the book. But he just wants to size me up. You are his guinea pig.” – Guerrero (to his final enemy.)
- Ernesto Diaz Espinoza has previously directed Marko Zaror in the movies “Kiltro”, “Mirageman”, “Mandrill”, and “Redeemer”.
- Eyal Meyer is a real life Kalaripayattu exponent, and is the founder of Chile’s first Kalari school, Mauna Kalari.
- Gina Aguad previously appeared with Marko in “Mirageman”. She was also an executive producer on “Mirageman” and “Redeemer”.
- Prior to the release of “Fist of the Condor” on Hi-YAH!, it also had a limited theater run in the U.S. in early April 2023, as part of the Alamo Drafthouse’s Fantastic Fest Presents Series.
- This included at numerous Alamo Drafthouse theaters, Marko being present for showings and Q&A’s at the Manhattan and Staten Island Alamo Drafthouses. As part of this, Marko was also inducted into the “Fists of Legend” Hall of Fame at the Staten Island Alamo Drafthouse.