If Marko Zaror’s character in Redeemer had a white skull painted on the front of his hoodie, this movie could easily have been marketed as the Chilean version of Punisher. Pardo (Zaror) certainly makes the bad guys pay in extraordinarily brutal fashion and very few live to tell their tale. This, of course, adds to the spectacle and mystery around Pardo, the ex-hit-man turned vigilante who is on a mission to make up for the lives he took.
Is Pardo an actual “Divine Avenger,” set on a path by his god to set things right in the world? Or is he just a man self-atoning for the horrible acts he did to innocent people? Either way, it is not a smart move to be a criminal who crosses his path. Fortunately for the audience, Redeemer has some great criminals for Pardo to deal with. Noah Segan (Looper) is awesome as Bradock, the gringo trying to setup a drug cartel in the Chilean town. Segan channels the best parts of Chris Pratt here and adds some much needed humor and levity to the film. Bradock even commands one of his henchmen to return with two bags: one with his missing money (the central plot point of the film) and the other with Pardo’s head.
There is also Alacran (that’s Scorpion for all you gringos like me), a man from Pardo’s past who has a job to finish. That job, of course, is to kill Pardo. The Scorpion (José Luís Mósca) doesn’t just want Pardo dead. He wants to undo any good that Pardo has done since their last encounter.
From the opening of the film (an homage to the ultra-violent A Clockwork Orange) to the very end, Redeemer is 88 minutes of fighting, shooting, and spectacular bloody death that isn’t afraid to put action first and story a distant second. This isn’t a neutered action flick that has things blowing up for the sake of loud explosions but it also isn’t gritty enough to be in the top tier of the genre.
The fight choreography is fantastic, as is expected from martial arts expert Zaror (who once doubled for The Rock in The Rundown). But it’s actually too good and often takes any sense of realism out of the moment. It’s like watching a ballet. You can appreciate the amazing athletic feats going on in front of you but after awhile, it gets tedious. One of the issues with the fights is you don’t wince when you see a vicious punch land. It also may be that very few punches actually land. There’s a lot of great punch blocking, though.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of violence, blood and creative killing (the fishhook through a bad guy’s nose is a pretty great scene). Yet Zaror is at his best, and seems the most comfortable, when he’s in shoot-‘em-up situations. Those scenes are terrifically paced and really get the blood pumping, while the fight scenes often drag on a tad bit too long.
Redeemer is a movie about faith and redemption but despite the overload of religious iconography throughout (including the tattooed back of our hero), it’s not heavy-handed with any type of religious message. This is a story about a man trying to avoid other people from the type of suffering he once doled out. What makes the religious aspects of this film fascinating is the way in which Pardo gets approval to enact his god’s wrath – a test of divine intervention that is the equivalent of “Yes” if Pardo lives and “No” if Pardo puts a self-inflicted bullet through his skull. It’s as if he’s speaking to his god through the barrel of a gun. It’s just a really neat element that writer/director Ernesto Díaz Espinoza (Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman) must have come up with in one of those great “Ah ha!” moments during the creative process.
Over the last decade, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza has established the market for action films in Chile. Redeemer certainly adds to his growing resume of entertaining genre movies. With Hollywood inundated with bloated action films that rarely deliver action, it would be interesting to see what Díaz Espinoza could do with a significantly higher budget.
“Redeemer” will be available June 12, 2015 on VOD and in select theaters. See the trailer below: