March 27, 2023 (NYC)– Fist of the Condor is a Love Letter to Martial Arts Movies. A Look at Fist of the Condor, a martial arts film of Chilean origin hitting US theaters and streaming services in April. Here is a synopsis and review of this Well Go USA Entertainment release.
Upon the empire’s fall to invading conquistadors, the 16th-century Incas quickly concealed a sacred manual containing the secrets behind their deadly fighting technique. But after centuries of careful safeguarding, the manual is again at risk of falling into the wrong hands, leaving its rightful guardian to battle the world’s greatest assassins to protect the ancient secrets within.
It is an interesting time in the life and career of Chilean martial arts movie star, Marko Zaror. Zaror has been practicing martial arts for almost 40 years, and has been a presence in martial arts movies for a very long time. Zaror first came to the attention of Taekwondo Life Magazine in 2017’s Jesse V. Johnson/Scott Adkins collaboration, Savage Dog. In that small market, martial arts action film he was a strong villainous presence. His climactic fight scene with Scott Adkins is very, very good.
Last week he exploded onto the screen in the latest John Wick sequel, John Wick: Chapter 4. Once again, an exciting, powerful and villainous role was the perfect fit for this mountainous figure, whose martial arts action skills are among the most impressive in modern cinema. He is a talented action star.
Now, on the heels of, and in stark contrast to, his role in one of the most widely anticipated, high budget, visually masterful epics in modern cinema Zaror hits the artisan theater circuit and Hi-YAH streaming channel with Fist of the Condor. This film is a highly personal, small budget, foreign film starring Zaror in the leading role(s). Unlike the Wick movies, it takes place in a remote location, and is an attempt to convey a martial arts philosophy and journey through film, albeit a mythical one.
According to Zaror, “This film represents my own journey as a martial artist to a great extent, particularly the winding but necessary path to overcoming my own perceived limits through the process of trial and error—and a great deal of introspection and perseverance. The story itself arose from delving into diverse approaches to nutrition, personal philosophy and training, as well as a personal desire to create a well-executed kung fu movie that also reverently portrays Latin American culture and values on-screen.”
While it is a Chilean made the film, Fist of the Condor is also clearly influenced by the martial arts films of the Far East. It has many images, references, and visual components which harken to the 1970’s “Kung Fu” films of the Shaw Brothers, and Golden Harvest. The filmmakers are, no doubt, familiar with, and fans of those films and style of filmmaking. Even the title pays homage to so many classic martial arts films. Fist of the Condor also has a through line that, early on, reminded me of David Carradine’s American martial arts, western television series, Kung Fu (1972-75). This was subtly confirmed in the film, itself, if the viewer is paying attention.
The movie is less than 90 minutes; however, it is jammed packed with explosive martial arts action scenes. There are numerous fight sequences throughout the film; many showcasing Zaror’s extensive background in Taekwondo, kickboxing, and various other martial arts. He is a striking physical persona, and his technique is founded in real martial arts training and understanding. While many of the scenes devolve into the some of the, more, high wire, acrobatics of some of the Chinese martial arts fantasy films, these scenes do support the story. Regardless, the fighting here is exciting, engaging, well choreographed, and well executed. For Taekwondo enthusiasts, many of the fight scenes have a Taekwondo foundation. In fact, the scenes of Zarors’ character’s master (played by Korean Man Soo Yoon) are steeped in Taekwondo; from his Korean origin to the modern, distinct Sports Poomsae Taekwondo uniform he is wearing.
The film also gives the filmmakers the opportunity to showcase the talents of some gifted, albeit, unknown martial artists, as well as the beauty of the place it was filmed. While this film could have taken place anywhere, there is a conscious effort to make sure the viewer knows it was filmed, specifically, in Chile.
If you are looking for a John Wick style franchise, Blockbuster this may not be the film for you. However, if you are looking for a good martial arts film, whose respect and passion for the martial arts and martial arts movies transcends its shortcomings, then Fist of the Condor is a hidden gem.
As for me, I love that this film came from a country not known for its martial arts cinema. Zaror has been on the scene a long time, but only now is he poised for international acclaim.
I do recommend Fist of the Condor.
Fist of the Condor, The Hi-Yah Original film Debuts in select Alamo Drafthouse theaters on April 4th and is Exclusively on Streaming Service Hi-YAH! beginning April 7, 2023, from Well Go USA Entertainment.
The film contains English subtitles.