Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Kiltro" - damn, this rocks

“Kiltro” is a low-budget, spanish-language kung-fu film, and I haven't felt this good after a martial arts flick since "Drunken Master II." Why? Because the premise works, the characters convey everything they have to (while still surprising the audience), and the action is flawless.

Obsessed with getting the male equivalent of "Run Lola Run" hair

Years ago, some buzz on aicn put a Chilean writer/director, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, on my mind. Apparently, Ernesto knows how to tell (and show) a great story. All his films star his friend, charismatic martial artist Marko Zaror. Like so many directors before him, one actor is his muse… The information was so promising that I waited three years til it became available in the U.S.

The story is both inspired and tried-and-true. In short, a rough but good guy does everything he can for a girl that doesn't want him. A common enemy forces him to deal with her, his own flaws, and a superior opponent.

In long: After a flash-forward to a moment that won't make sense for at least an hour, we're introduced to our protagonist, Zamir. He's a big, simple man who challenges someone to fight - just because he made an approach to Kim, a pretty Asian girl. He whups the guy, but Kim wants nothing to do with Zamir. Later, Z’s mother berates him for having too little ambition, warning that he'll become like his (unknown) father.

What follows shows us (somewhat obliquely) what we need to know about the situation: One day, this punchy dude saw that girl - about to be sexually assaulted. He saves her, and she kisses him when he carries her home. After that, though, he's a love-struck puppy. He follows her often, and beats up any man who gets near her - even when her consent is obvious. This hysterical montage of the past is inter-mingled with present-day doings – a martial artist is killing some older men in the neighborhood.

Before long, Kim is in danger, her father is abducted from his own dojo, and our hero gets wrecked by a middle-aged man in black. Zamir is sent on a mission to get the skills he'll need to save the day.

“Kiltro” was made on the cheap, but it never shows in the acting or script. If you seldom watch foreign films, you may be disappointed. Some folks can't stand subtitles, or put up with the little differences between movies made for $1M and those made for $50M. But I hope you don't just watch pictures that are low in inspiration and high in budget or production (musical analogue: Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears songs). If so, you'll get pulled into the film quickly.

The camera work is solid. The actors may largely be amateurs, but it doesn't show. The music is great - the theme got stuck in my head for days (I've a weakness for good spanish tunes). And the fights are fairly impressive, especially considering the budget and goals of the film-maker. This is a movie that touches your feelings and leaves you wanting more.

Hollywood tries films like this from time to time - they all get bogged down in unnecessary junk (a "cool" side-kick), poor story/dialogue, or a total lack of inspiration. If you ever saw a kung-fu film that made you feel exhilarated and happy, then this should be perfect for you. Rent it immediately – it was released in 2006, but only Netflix has it.

Bonus #1: my long wait for the other big Espinoza-Zaror collaboration is almost over! 2007’s “Mirageman” will finally be on Netflix on October 6th! It’s about a “real-life” superhero, and is supposedly an even better and funnier movie.

Bonus #2: Marko Zaror won Best Actor at Fantastic Fest 2009 for Mandrill, his third collaboration with Espinoza. aicn posted a typically masturbatory and excessive clip of Zaror doing a nifty jump after his win.

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