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May 22, 2023

Fist of the Condor


Ernesto Diaz Espinoza - 2022
Well Go USA BD Region A

I am going to be honest and admit that I am not the audience for whom Fist of the Condor was made. This is a niche film for a niche audience. What is of interest to me is that this is an unexpected hybrid, a Chilean martial arts movie, in Spanish with English subtitles. The set-up is that the Incas of the 16th Century had a special martial arts manual passed down through generations from one master to another. Only one copy remains. A reclusive master is reputed to have that one copy. If the story seems in any way reminiscent of other films, it was deliberately designed as homage to the Chinese language martial arts films. Rather than being overly generic, Fist of the Condor may well have been a better film if it had leaned more deeply into its Incan roots, whether real or imagined.

Marko Zaror plays the martial arts master who fights to retain his reputation. Were it not for the scenes with him traveling on his motorcycle, the film appears to be taking place in a hard to determine time period. Zaror also plays the part of his twin brother. The story really is not that important except as a framework to allow Zaror to show off his skills. The aphorisms the characters spout off at each other are neither profound nor original unless one has never seen a kung-fu movie or any any film that includes fake Eastern philosophy in its dialogue. On the other hand, if you want to see why Matko Zaror is a cult action hero, Fist of the Condor explains everything.

With his clean-shaven head here, it would come to no surprise that Zaror once was a stunt double for Dwayne Johnson. Unlike the former wrestler, Zaror displays amazing physical dexterity, especially in running like an animal, stretching out on both hands and feet, and the quick pummeling of his hands when boxing. There is a bit too much reliance on rendering some of the flying fists and high kicks in slow motion. I was previously unfamiliar with Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, who as writer, director and producer has established a career as a genre specialist with several films starring Zaror, with several other cast members who have been part of his previous films. While most serious film scholarship on South American cinema is centered on those films that are on the film festival or art house circuit, Fist of the Condor should be appreciated as a small glimpse into the frequently ignored popular cinema.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at May 22, 2023 06:59 AM