A man with a violent, blood-soaked past becomes the arbiter of righteous, blood-soaked justice in “Redeemer”, the fourth and easily best collaboration of filmmaker Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and Chilean action superstar Marko Zaror. A thriller that is at once brutally gruesome and entrancingly marvelous, it’s one of the absolute must-sees of 2015 for martial arts fans.
The incredible Marko Zaror steps into the lead of Nicky Pardo, aka “The Redeemer”, a former cartel assassin turned shadowy vigilante who now directs his fury at the criminal underworld that he was once a part of. He carries a bitter vendetta with fellow underworld assassin Alacran (“The Scorpion”), played Jose Luis Mosca. Through their conflict with one another, both men enter the radius of rising crime lord Steven Bradock, played by Noah Segan, who has his sights set on Augustin and Antonia, a pair of unsuspecting locals who inadvertently find themselves targets of his criminal empire, played by Mauricio Diocares and Loreto Arvena respectively.
In his dark and violent past, Nicky Pardo was an assassin for Chilean cartels when one terrible mistake cost him everything. Now attempting to atone for his sins, Pardo now unleashes the righteous fury of God on the criminal underworld as a vigilante known as “The Redeemer”. He finds himself lending a hand to a dockworker named Augustin, who happened upon a suitcase full of money belonging to the vicious crime lord Steve Bradock, and ultimately makes targets of himself and the owner of the hostel he’s sought refuge in, Antonia, along with her young son. Pardo agrees to protect the three from Bradock’s bloodlust, but little does he suspect that a man from his past is about to return to finish what the two of them started years ago.
Right from its darkly atmospheric opening, it’s very clear that “Redeemer” has looked to “The Raid” as a major influence. The look of the film is one of a seething menace, where even a scene in broad daylight feels unsettling yet curiously gorgeous at the same time.
Pardo is a man perpetually withdrawn from the world, rarely saying a word, never making eye contact with strangers, with a hood covering his head at all times. This dark anti-hero suits a gentle giant like Marko Zaror perfectly for how little effort he has to make to be intimidating. Every time he arrives to punish the guilty, appearing out of nowhere gazing at the floor while admonishing his targets to repent for their sins, it absolutely sends chills down your spine. The viewer learns early on just how personal this quest is for Pardo when they get a look at the ritual he partakes in before embarking on his newest mission – inserting a single bullet into a revolver and playing a quick game of Russian roulette, and if that doesn’t pull you right into the film, the first action scene most certainly will.
It’s exceedingly rare to see martial artists of Marko’s build and frame defy gravity with the kind of ease that he does, and if there’s one thing he’s good at, it’s making it all look effortless. Like “The Raid”, this is a movie that doesn’t shy away from graphically spilling a shed load of blood, but Marko, who also served as the film’s fight choreographer, knows how to balance that kind of brutality with the flash and flair that he’s capable of. During the opening fight sequence, he lands a front kick to one opponent and immediately uses a hook kick with the same leg to wrap the arm of another enemy approaching from behind and take him down, just before playing dentist with another adversary, and the Redeemer rest assured has a vast army of viscerally satisfying “Wow!” and “Ooooh!” moves at his command.
Quite a few of them show up in a duel against one of Pardo’s more worthy opponents played by Nelson Nunez, who puts him through a blazing MMA battle of fists, feet, and Jiu-Jitsu maneuvers. What really shines in this fight sequence, and really the film as a whole, is just how crisp and refined the skills of Marko and his opponent are. Each punch and kick is delivered with that kind of picture perfect textbook polish that can only come from decades of tireless training, and the grappling of this particular sequence is some of the best seen in a martial arts film since “Flash Point“. The money shot that ends this battle once again highlights Marko’s exceptional talent for blending ferocity with style in a most effective, satisfying way. If the fight had been a sentence, the way it ends would be with multiple exclamation points.
Pardo encounters another worthy adversary later in the film, and to give a little versatility to the action, Marko, moving somewhere in the vicinity of “G-Force” velocity, works in some Wing Chun chain punching that must be seen to be believed. When the finale arrives, the flashbacks that have permeated the film come full circle and the viewer learns just how horrendous and deep Pardo’s past sins have been and how dearly he’s paid for them. The vendetta between The Redeemer and the Scorpion is the pay off that the film builds towards, and Marko and Jose Luis Mosca deliver a beautiful yet vicious blend of spinning kicks and bloodshed, made all the more poignant by the fact that the film and Pardo himself both acknowledge his past wrongdoing at this moment and press him to answer for it.
With the possible exception of his deliciously sleazy portrayal of the villainous Dolor in “Undisputed 3: Redemption“, never has Marko Zaror smashed it like he does in “Redeemer”. Every technique he employs is perfect down to the last nanometer, while he and his co-stars strike an impeccable balance between the awesome and the gruesome in every action scene. If it’s 90 minutes of show-stopping, all out martial arts action you seek, you’ve come to the right place with “Redeemer”, sit back…absorb…enjoy!
- Todd Brown, founder of Twitchfilm.com, served as one of the film’s executive producers. He also executive produced “The Raid” films.
- Noah Segan served as one of the writers for the film.
- Marko Zaror and Ernesto Diaz Espinoza have previously collaborated on the films “Kiltro”, “Mirageman”, and “Mandrill”.