Today I watched Ernesto Diaz Espinoza’s Redeemer (2014)
The titular Redeemer of this Chilean martial arts revenge flick is an ex-hitman played by frequent Espinoza collaborator Marko Zaror who travels the countryside and brutally beats down any wrongdoers he comes across. This intense antihero begins each of his violent little quests with a ritualistic round of Russian roulette as if asking for permission from Christ. As he wanders from place to place he is followed by an equally mysterious adversary known as The Scorpion who seeks to make wrong everything that the Redeemer tries to set right. As our lone hero tries to help a pair of villagers accosted by drug dealing thugs led by some annoying tourist of a gringo, The Scorpion finally manages to catch up with the Redeemer for a final confrontation.
Ernesto Diaz Espinoza is a genius of South American action B-movies whose films I have talked about before. His work plays with the pre-established genre conventions of martial arts, superheroes, spies, vigilantes, and more, all the while constantly delivering a uniquely Chilean perspective and vision. Of course one could say that he lacks originality, this film for instance bears a striking resemblance to Drive in many ways. But I say that undersells how wonderfully he can recontextualize is influences into very personal artistic statements. Sure here he borrows heavily from the lush visual style of Nicolas Winding Refn, but he trades neons for pastels and L.A. for a Chilean village and completely owns the final product, Refn could not make this movie, only Espinoza. Well, Espinoza and his invaluable leading man and fight choreographer Marko Zaror.
Zaror should be in Hollywood leading action movies and maybe even playing a big time superhero, They definitely need more Hispanic faces in those films. This guy has the build of a classic Eighties hero but can also bring all the kicks and flips of kung fu flicks into his performance as well. Not only does he perform in but he also choreographs the fighting here and while it may not be for everyone, it most certainly is for me. These fight scenes can be quite long but in them I notice a similarity to the best of pro-wrestling, within these drawn out bouts a single story is being told in the choreography and the kinetic motion. Action here is not just action, it is a violent dialogue of the body that reveals new depths to the characters.
Espinoza and Zaror are a force to be reckoned with in today’s action cinema. Together they have crafted some truly expressive pieces of art in their chosen genre and are a solid argument for this level of film making. Away from the excessive constraints of Hollywood, Espinoza has created a remarkable and entertaining work. He and his crews overcome great difficulty in making the kinds of movies that many people ignore as being bargain bin action but doing so with style, personality, and skill. Never neglect the low brow and the budget, otherwise you miss the true originals like Espinoza and his main man Zaror. 5/5