Review: Marko Zaror’s FIST OF THE CONDOR is a Bone Crunching Mixture of New Wave Fight Flick and Old School Kung Fu Slug Fest!

If there ever was a time we needed an injection of old school, kick ass Kung Fu cinema, it would be today. With John Wick Chapter 4 tearing it up at the worldwide box office, it’s once again cool for the mainstream world to jump on the bandwagon for love of all things that punch, kick, shoot and explode. What of us niche fans who digest this stuff on a regular basis? You know what I mean. Those of us that worship action cinema like it’s our religion, our bible because it is. Well, I’m here to tell all of you fair weather fans that only come out to play when something like John Wick hits, that action cinema is one of the proudest and most beloved genres in all of film.

Preaching aside, this April 7th, HI-YAH! will unleash the latest empty handed fight epic and it comes courtesy of one of the stars of Chapter 4 and his longtime friend that he has collaborated with in the past. I love Well Go USA, who runs the martial arts streaming service, because they know what we crave and what we need in terms of foreign action product that is way less mainstream than Keanu Reeves doing his thing on the grandest stage possible. Reeves’ John Wick co-star, Chilean international martial arts action star Marko Zaror, is back and he’s bringing the old school homage with him with his latest effort aptly titled Fist of the Condor. Even the name screams Saturday afternoon Kung Fu theater and when you watch it, you’ll be transported back to a time when these films ruled the airwaves before streaming services were even a glimmer in the eye.

Fist of the Condor sees Zaror playing double duty as twins who are at odds with each other. Throw in the fact that there is an old manuscript that teaches the lost art of the Condor (God, I love this stuff) that is missing and the one that possesses it will be the supreme of the supreme fighter ever, we have the makings of 80 minutes of extreme Latin flavor martial arts action that will definitely need to be viewed again.

Zaror reunites with longtime collaborator and childhood friend, director Ernesto Díaz Espinoza (Kiltro, Mirageman, Mandrill, Redeemer) for a timeless and face pounding tale of a secret Kung-Fu manual that divulges the lethal and deadly art of the condor fist. Said manuscript was hidden by the Incas at first and since has been passed down throughout the generations for safe keeping. It is here in the present that we are introduced to our twins, which are played by Zaror Double Impact style, and one of said siblings is rumored to be the latest keeper of the sacred text. The twins, who both sport long hair and a shaved dome, have been separated for years, and for nefarious reasons, they want vengeance on one another for reasons that are unfortunately never fleshed out in full detail in the movie’s short 80-minute running time. 75 minutes if you take away credits. What follows is a barrage of fight set pieces that will most assuredly satisfy even the most jaded of action afficionado.

From the get-go, it’s clear that Zaror and Espinoza are in this to pay their respects to those timeless Kung Fu classics of the day as we are treated to tropes that flooded these movies when they were viewed on your local TV affiliate. You know the tropes I mean. From our gravity defying protagonist suffering from a rare phobia that makes him afflicted to bright light to the extreme close ups and sound effects that would accompany each and every film from the 70’s and 80’s. There are the gratuitous money shots of elite fighters leaping in the air in ultra slo-mo as their feet come crashing towards the camera lens and the sound effects of flesh hitting bone that will make the strongest wince in pain. They’re all here. We even have the villain who sports black mascara which he is not ashamed to wearing let me tell you. While watching this film, Jackie Chan’s Fearless Hyena and others will assuredly come to mind and that is exactly what star and director want to happen.

The narrative even plays out like a plot from a movie that saw itself get a re-release from the Wu Tang DVD collection and that is perfectly how it should be. there’s no romance to get in the way here. No levity to lighten the mood. It’s just the world’s deadliest warriors going full on combat to acquire the power of, yep you guessed it, The Fist of the Condor. This is just pure unadulterated fight action that infuses the new with the old and when the smoke clears and the bodies litter the floor, fans will be craving more in a good way. Make no mistake, this is a niche movie and sadly it won’t find the kind of audience that John Wick will but that’s OK because for all of us that gets it, Christmas has come early, and Santa Claus is being played by Marko Zaror.

What can I say about the fight action that fills the running time? It’s everything you would want and more. Zaror’s signature action is on display in all its grandeur and unlike the blockbuster that is now in theaters, he’s front and center in dual roles doing what he does best. Zaror has the kind of moves that will make one want to look for wires but alas to no success as the man is a human special effect just like a certain British martial arts star that is sporting a fat suit in the same blockbuster. Jaws will drop when fans bear witness to what this man can do and that’s to constantly defy gravity at a moment’s notice. He’s fluid like water my friend to paraphrase a quote from one of the greatest martial artists and action stars ever.

Now of course, a man of Zaror’s talents needs opponents and martial artists of equal footing and with that we have a grand supporting cadre of players that include Puerto Rican banger Jose Manuel, Eyal Meyer, who happens to be a student of one of the oldest martial arts in the world called Kalarippayattu and Korean Hapkido grandmaster Man Soo Yoon who has been with our filmmaker duo since 2006’s Kiltro. You know a man is a legit bad ass like Zaror when he’s not afraid to go toe to toe with fighters of his caliber in movies. he does it for the art and the simple fact that to be the best, you have to take on the best. There are no egos here as everyone involved just wants to make the best picture they can and in terms of sweat inducing, body gouging action, this one delivers in spades.

Each fight in the movie is its own character and just like Bloodsport, there are many different styles to gawk at here and the actors pull no punches to deliver the best. From high flying aerial kicks to ore intricate joint locks and holds, the fights are a blending of the extreme and the complex and it’ll take more than one viewing to take it all in. Watching this movie and being a student of the game, I was in heaven watching all the tirelessly mapped out choreography on display. When talent of this caliber come together for the action sequences, we all win.

The cinematography is a sight to behold as well and Espinoza and Zaror showcase their country to its fullest extent. Fist of the Condor was a passion project for both and when the quarantine happened, they grabbed their cameras and went off into the countryside to film a movie that is beautiful and at the same time dangerous. From the scenic cliffs to the pristine beaches of Latin America, the landscape is its own character, and it suitably ensnares the cast from beginning to end. It’s nothing short of breathtaking and the Yin to the movie’s deadly Yang.

If I’m going to get nitpicky and drum up negatives, it would have to be the narrative that isn’t truly fleshed out in the short span the movie is playing. Like I said the twins’ animosity towards each other could have been mapped out a whole lot better and characterization takes a back seat to the on-screen fisticuffs as it does like so many times in the past. Fas of the lethal science will forgive the movie for this flaw but that is why it will only please audiences who worship this stuff like Sunday Church.

Overall, you know what you’re going to get with a movie called Fist of the Condor. 80 minutes of CQB action like no other demonstrated by pros that know what they’re doing. It’s a spectacular mixture of the old and the new and it’s the kind of old school fight film that has gone dormant in this generation. Marko Zaror proves why he’s the best of the best in the business and if you want mind blowing martial arts movie like no other that he’s the man to watch. Zaror is a passionate talent, and it comes off in all that he does. Even in his films that never rise to the top, he still gives it his all and delivers just what fans are craving. This is stripped down adrenaline in its purest form. When you go to see John Wick Chapter 4 this week, make sure to come home and give this little film some love as well as we need more like it. Ironically, it’s the edited trailer to this movie that got Zaror his coveted role in this weekend’s blockbuster movie. Weak narrative aside, it’s all about the combat here and with that, you’d be hard pressed to find something better right now. With Fist of the Condor and John Wick, action fans have the perfect one-two punch of Marko Zaror!

VERDICT: 4 Out of 5 Stars: Action-Flix Approved and essential!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fist of the Condor is the near perfect infusion of the new and old with extreme action set pieces and an equally extreme action star that delivers the thrills!

FIST OF THE CONDOR is a Hi-YAH! Original and will be in In Select Alamo Drafthouse Theaters: April 4 and Streaming Exclusively on Hi-YAH!: April 7

Check out my exclusive interview with Marko on The Action Fix Podcast where we talk John Wick and Fist of the Condor below!


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