Below is the first of a series of reviews by Justin Richards of independent genre films that he watched at Cannes earlier this year. I'm going to gradually release these every few days so keep an eye out for reviews of some interesting and mainly yet-to-be-released action and horror titles.

Director: Ernesto Díaz Espinoza
Screenplay: Ernesto Díaz Espinoza
Producers: Derek Rundell & Marko Zaror
Starring: Marko Zaror, Celine Reymond, Alejandro Castillo, Luis Alarcón, María José Prieto
Year: 2009
Country: Chile
Duration: 90 min

Ernesto Díaz Espinoza (Mirageman, Kiltro) wrote and directed this, his third collaboration with fellow Chilean Marko Zaror, who’s the lead again. This time Marko plays a hitman who is sent on a mission to terminate a ruthless drug lord, The Cyclops, whom he believes was responsible for the deaths of his parents. The mission becomes somewhat complicated when he falls for the daughter of said drug lord and he must choose whether to forgo his longed for vengeance or make his new lover an orphan.

I’ve got to say I really enjoyed this Chilean martial arts action movie, much more so than the aforementioned Kiltro, which, to be honest, was a chore to sit through for most of its running time and only partially redeemed itself during its final fifteen minutes when Zaror finally demonstrates his excellent martial arts skills.

While the story behind Mandrill is nothing particularly original, the film is well shot, nicely paced, quite funny in places, and once again showcases why Issac Florentine chose Marko as the main villain in Undisputed 3 – he’s a very flamboyant and therefore interesting to watch, martial artist who can also act.

Mandrill is deliberately cheesy in places, in particular the deliberately over the top TV show slots and dreamlike sequences, which pepper the main story. Some of the humour works quite well, while much of it will induce groans from the viewer, but it’s all good fun.

The fight sequences are well handled by Zaror himself who seems to be turning into a decent fight choreographer as well as leading action man. The action editing, for the most part, is clean and you can keep track of what’s going on and what is happening to who, which is always a plus – damn those Bourne films! Strangely enough some of the fights are quite brutal, which seems at odds with the campy James Bond style the rest of the movie is obviously going for.

If you fancy watching something a little different and don’t mind campy humour then I suggest you catch Mandrill when it, hopefully, gets a wider release.

Review by Justin Richards

About The Author

Justin Richards is a journalist by day and a scriptwriter by night. His work has appeared in the darker recesses of the internet and in various niche publications including ITNOW, The Darkside, Is it Uncut?, Impact and Deranged. When he’s not sitting hunched over a sticky, crumb-laden keyboard he’s paying good money to have people in pyjamas try and kick him repeatedly in the face.

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