I’m writing this review at the expense of having actor/badass extraordinaire Marko Zaror hunt me down and beat my face into a bloody pulp, as he could do with both hands and feet tied behind his back, but something about Redeemer just doesn’t resonate with the B-Movie action nut that lives inside me, feeding off beef jerky and the tears of my foes.
Redeemer is full-throttle action, I won’t argue that, but it feels a tad-bit undercooked, packing a whole host of ruthless butt-kicking into a movie that doesn’t cue proper plotting to support such bloodshed. Opening up with a cheeky homage to A Clockwork Orange and a synth-pop remix of Johnny Cash’s God’s Gonna Cut You Down, the action sequences grow tiresome after slowly devolving into a superhero-like film where the main character can do no wrong, as Zaror throws around goons like lifeless mannequins. Redeemer to the rescue!
Like so many heroes before him, Pardo (Zaror) is a former hit-man who decides that atoning for his sins seems like the proper thing to do, abandoning his criminal life to set things right. After stumbling upon a sleepy town where a drug dealer named Bradock (Noah Segan) intends to rule, Pardo steps in to make sure innocent townspeople aren’t caught in the fray. While Bradock sends his men to put an end to the “Redeemer,” a rival assassin known as “Scorpion” also finds himself in the same town, ready to kill Pardo himself. Can this righteous mercenary step in and save the day, or will his past finally catch up and spell defeat?
Zaror kicks ass, takes no names, and punishes thugs throughout much of Redeemer, boasting naturalistic fighting birthed from an expert’s imagination. With talents unmatched and action at a premium, you’ll get no complaints as far as beat-em-up style Streets Of Rage fighting is concerned, as a smattering of über-badass moments lend themselves to a true video game atmosphere. Be it Pardo punching a glass bottle in mid-air, then using the jagged weapon against its wielder, or slamming some poor bastard’s face into a spinning boat engine propeller, adrenaline-obsessed action fans won’t be let down. Redeemer is fast, furious and ferocious – I won’t argue that.
Noah Segan is brought in as the dimwitted gringo who yearns for an more badass name, because “Steve” doesn’t exactly strike fear, and while his comedy provides a jovial change of pace from Zaror’s bone-crunching antics, Segan’s B-Movie cartel leader is more memorable than Pardo himself. Neo-Nazis are introduced into the mix at some point, and we learn the emotional investment in Scorpion’s never-ending quest to murder Pardo, but those plot notes become overshadowed by Pardo’s non-stop ass-kicking. For the type of movie Ernesto Díaz Espinoza aims for, I completely understand why a constant focus is put on realistic brutality, but Redeemer ends up being heavy on bite, with a bark that’s nonexistent. Pardo encounters a gang of miscreants, he utters a prayer offering them salvation, they decline, and bodies start flying through windows – rinse and repeat.
Throughout Redeemer, Espinoza also favors a very minimalist style of filmmaking that doesn’t bother with heavily-animated and overly rendered camera work, creating what’s more in-line with a martial arts demo real sans some gore, flashbacks and intricate details. I absolutely love minor notables like bullets sporting scorpion decals and the lush South American landscapes, but instead of lending itself to grittiness and realism, the very vanilla camerawork becomes a bit tiresome. At times, Redeemer feels like something you might stumble upon at 3AM on Cinemax, easy on story yet heavy on gang-violence.
For showy martial artists, action purists and Ernesto Díaz Espinoza fans, Redeemer is certainly worth the watch, but there’s an unfortunate normality that just can’t be shaken. Espinoza’s catalog is full of high-octane adventures like Mirageman and Mandrill, but Redeemer doesn’t quite live up to such titles based on a more complacent atmosphere striving for nothing but action glory. Zaror’s choreography is on-point, and his presence is once again felt with each punishing blow, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before – and coming from such a typically artful team, a lack of personality ends up burying Redeemer prematurely.