The Spanish conquistadors forced dozens of Central and South American societies to become vassals to the Spanish empire back in the 16th century. A small group of Incan warriors fought back, hiding in the mountains and developing an extraordinary, gravity-defying fighting technique called Rumi Maki. It was codified in a manual called The Fist of the Condor, which has been carefully guarded through the centuries to ensure it wouldn’t ever be used by anyone with evil intent. Until now.
Fist of the Condor (El Puño del Condor) is a Chilean action movie featuring martial arts star Marko Zaror. He plays a double role as the warrior El Guerrero, tasked with protecting the sacred manual, and his evil twin brother Gemelo, who seeks the secrets of the Rumi Maki so he can become a murderous gangster. Zaror is a familiar face to martial arts fans and is currently also appearing in the Keanu Reeves starrer John Wick 4. In fact, it’s rumored that he got the role in John Wick after the producers saw the trailer for Fist of the Condor…
The film opens with young disciple El Oponente (Jose Manuel) challenging Gemelo in a beach fight scene, mistakenly believing that it’s Gemelo who holds the Manual. Oops. After that battle, Gemelo sends “his best student”, the creepy and sadistic Kalari (Eyal Meyer, another well-known action star) to fight El Guerrero and obtain The Manual. When El Guerrero points out to Kalari that he’s really been sent to assess Guerrero’s fighting prowess and that his brother expects Kalari to be killed, their interaction quickly goes south, with one of the grittiest and most intense fight scenes in the film.
With a narrative told muchly through flashbacks, we learn that both brothers traveled to the remote Monastery of the Condor and found Mujer Condor (Gina Aguad) in charge; she sensed Gemelo’s evil intentions, however, and rejected him as a student, only allowing Guerrero to join up. Cue martial arts training montage, complete with daft and banal chores that ostensibly build discipline. In fact, he’s no better than a galley slave for a year, at which time she informs him that he is now ready to “begin his training”. To get to the school he has abandoned his wife and young daughter, who live in a very humble house on a rocky shoreline. Guerrero, we learn, has also forgotten to tell his wife about his twin brother, so you can easily imagine the havoc that ensues and its inevitable outcome.
In fact, the entire plot of Fist of the Condor is as predictable as a teen romance movie, but no-one’s going to watch this film expecting an intricately plotted action movie that requires an immediate second viewing to fully grasp its nuances.
Viewers come to this film, ably directed by Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, to enjoy the fight sequences, and while there aren’t as many as the mayhem-jammed John Wick series, the fights are impressive and engaging, with throwback-to-60s-martial-arts-films splattery endings and no shortage of blood.
There’s even a bar fight with our hero versus a tough biker gang that begins by <yawn> the reprobates harassing an innocent woman at an adjacent table. One of my favorite fights is a Wuxia-inspired fight in a forest clearing. With motorcycle. Of course.
I have to add a special shoutout to the terrific music, supplied by Los Lobos. It’s rather amazing that a group with their global star power was pulled in to help with this simple martial arts film, but it’s definitely good enough that you’ll want to turn up the volume. Which will then, of course, make those punches and kicks land with an even more satisfying splat.
It’s all rather campy fun and Zaror is a big presence in his dual roles. You’ll probably get confused about who’s who with the “twin brothers who hate each other” trope’s inevitable lack of differentiation, but it’s all part of the fun of this Chilean action film. Recommended for fans of the genre.