‘Redeemer’ Pulls One Too Many Punches

by David Allegre on June 17, 2015

in Print Reviews,Reviews

 [Rating: Minor Rock Fist Down]

The Spanish produced, Chilean set martial arts actioner Redeemer makes its intentions quite clear from the start. It’s evident from the first scenes that this is the type of film where the hooded, mysterious protagonist, nicknamed the Redeemer, will roll through town and solve problems by leaving a trail of bodies, consequences be damned. Despite the heavy handed Catholic overtones surrounding the violence, and the Redeemer’s insistence on his guilt and heavy conscience, he doesn’t hesitate for an instant when brutally dispatching the local drug gang’s goons. This isn’t the sort of movie that apologizes for its violence, as well it shouldn’t. Redeemer works better as a series of tightly choreographed, almost dance-like fight scenes, than as a narrative film.

The many fight scenes of the film find our hero usually surrounded by several opponents, as they circle one another, dart, dash, and feint. Marko Zaror, who plays the Redeemer, doubles as the movie’s fight choreographer and deserves much of the credit for the merits of Redeemer. The action has a balletic quality, the fighters twirl, jump, and flip as often as they kick and punch. And yet there’s a brutal efficiency that accompanies the hits, which are felt with visceral force.

Unfortunately the movie’s screenplay doesn’t pull its own weight. The story is very familiar stuff, borrowing tropes from the Western genre. The Redeemer agrees to take out the gang to aid a woman, Antonia, who shows him compassion, while his troubled past comes back to haunt him. Part of the weakness of the screenplay is the Redeemer character, whose backstory, although filled with detail fails to bring a true human quality to the character. Despite his brilliant physicality in the fight scenes, Zaror’s dramatic performance doesn’t aid things, bringing no charisma or humor to the role.

The screen time devoted to developing the relationship between the Redeemer and Antonia does little to lend weight to the action scenes. The punches and kicks, although having a visual thrill, lack any dramatic impact. There’s no sense of mortality or fallibility for the hero, which deflates the fight scenes of tension. Despite its best efforts, the film’s soundtrack similarly fails to inject a sense of immediacy or tension into the film. An anxious industrial beat chugs the film along at a steady pace, but hardly provides any momentum.

Another unfortunate misstep is the movie’s failure to truly use its setting in the action. Despite the interesting and unique setting of a rural Chilean fishing village, most of the action set pieces boil down to a simple set up of a group of fighters on a flat surface. A wall or a prop are used occasionally in a fight, but it’s mostly body vs body. Redeemer could take a note or two out of Mad Max or John Wick‘s books, two recent films also featuring tough-but-silent leads and excelled at using their unique locales for gripping action.

Looked at purely as a delivery system for intricately choreographed fight scenes from a stun coordinator’s wet dreams, Redeemer certainly has its pleasures. Personally though, I’d find myself fast forwarding through most of it on a rewatch.

 

David Allegre is a film student currently studying at the University of Kansas and living in Lawrence, KS.

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