Monday, April 03, 2023

The Fist of the Condor, Starring Marko Zaror

El Guerrero is not yet as blind as Zatoichi, but his extremely light-sensitive eyes are irreversibly deteriorating. As a consolation, the same is true for his sworn rival, which makes sense, since that happens to be his twin brother Gemelo. Each wants to control the book that holds all the secrets of Rumi Maki, an ancient Incan martial art. Obviously, when it comes to this kind of knowledge, there can be only one. Both archetypal brothers are played by Chilean martial arts superstar Marko Zaror in Ernesto Diaz Espinoza’s The Fist of the Condor, which screens this Tuesday in Drafthouses theaters across the country.

The two brothers wanted to learn the ancient Condor-style martial art discipline from Mother Condor, but she only deemed El Guerrero worthy. However, Gemelo kept watching them outside the grounds of her school, biding his time. Now, Gemelo is a master and a criminal kingpin, but he still worries about what his brother might know.

For years, El Guerrero has trained for an inevitable showdown with his twin brother. He even abandoned his family, to live and train like a mystical nomad, sort of like Cain on
Kung Fu, or any number of angsty martial arts protagonists.

It makes sense for Well Go USA to try to build the Chilean Zaror into the next big martial arts superstar. He is recognizable from the
John Wick franchise and lacks the baggage of many of his colleagues or competitors from Hong Kong and Mainland China. Speaking solely for myself, I will no longer be covering films starring Donnie Yen or Jackie Chan. They have endorsed 7.5 million of their fellow Hongkongers losing their freedom to curry favor with the CCP. This makes them traitors to their homeland and total sell-outs. It is simply not acceptable.

That brings us back to Zaror, who has tremendous skills and an imposing screen presence. He might have to work on developing more leading man charisma, but the trippy, spiritual vibe of
Fist shrewdly fits his muscular, bird-of-prey-like physicality. He can fight like crazy and brood like a house on fire. Yet, he clearly establishes very distinct personas for El Guerrero and Gemelo.

Zaror gets some skillful support from Man Soo Yoon, as El Guerrero’s first sensei, Master Wook, and Eyal Meyer, as Kalari, Gemelo’s ruthless protégé, whom El Guerrero must face off against. It really is cool to see so much martial arts talent, outside of an Asian or American setting and context.

Fist of the Condor
is a welcome throwback to mystical martial arts films like Circle of Iron. Espinoza delights in action set-pieces perched atop windswept cliffs, which cinematographers Nicolas Ibieta and Benjamin Luna Vaccarezza do full justice to. For martial cinema, this film is unusually striking visually. Sometimes, the storyline could have been tighter and more focused, but the fight scenes are terrific. Highly recommended as a martial arts alternative you can enjoy in good conscience, The Fist of the Condor screens Tuesday night (4/4) in Alamo Drafthouse theaters and streams on Hi-YAH! this Friday (4/7).