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A crusty traveler “kid” once told me that he wanted to live like he was on a mission from God. At that moment, only two things crossed my mind-- The Blues Brothers (1980) first, because any time someone says “a mission from God" I instantly hear it replayed in Dan Aykroyd’s familiar “Elwood” voice. Secondly, I thought about how cool it would be if there was a magical sky-being out there handing out missions that involved things like hopping trains, cheap beer and DIY accessories like “crotch flaps”. The thirty-nine-year-old had spent the day dropping surface level, profound statements as if a scribe was following him, which I assumed were a mix of stolen anecdotes and common sense, said in the form of what the internet now calls a “hot takes”. They all had come off along the lines of a dollar store birthday card with a character of an elderly cowboy on the front, and this one was no different, at least when it was first proudly released from his bearded, nicotine-stained lips. I had to give him credit though, because the rest of his crew was either too drunk for me to understand altogether or spoke in only FEAR lyrics (and only from two songs). While I didn't really give two shits at the time, I surprisingly found myself going back to the phrase (in his particular framing) later in my life. I don't know what “Beef-Boy of the Scunkunts” (their spelling not mine) true intentions were when he slipped me that fortune cookie-sized, recycled proverb, but it has come in my mind to mean that anything worth acting upon is something worth acting upon with conviction. Whatever it is I'm doing, if I'm going to do it, I might as well look at it as my life's charge, handed to me from above. This has served me well. I did originally hit a little snag around the god part. I don't know if I have a god, let alone if it hands out missions or what the missions would be like if it did. Luckily, I didn't have to start going to church to get the hang of things. Instead, I just started faking its positive effects with the help of my normal standby--cinema. Over time, through the magic of film, I have been witness to countless examples of a person who felt as if they had been tasked by a celestial being and acted accordingly. So if I need a good paragon for that kind of behavior, I can just remember the actions played out in classics like The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999), Clash of the Titans (1981) or Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). I just pick the best qualities from (mostly) fake crazy people and apply those (it's much safer that way).  Recently I found an unexpected new spiritual role model to add to the list, Redeemer (2014).
Meet Pardo (Marko Zaror), he has suffered some fucked up loss in his life, most notably his beloved family, at the hands of some guy who says bastard a lot, Alacrán (aka Scorpion played by José Luís Mósca), who then left him for dead in the desert. Pardo was once a well-tuned hit-man for a powerful drug syndicate but has left it all behind for a very close relationship with God. So very close, in fact, that Pardo plays Russian roulette daily to make sure the Lord is still listening. Since the death of his family, he has also taken to cleaning up the streets, using his expert ass-kicking skills and some raspy preaching. We first bear witness to this when he smashes the fuck out of some would-be rapist, scum bags he finds performing a low rent reenactment of an early scene from A Clockwork Orange. Turns out (after an explained time period) Alacrán is in the picture again and back to ruining lives, calling people bastards, and playing his part in the drug cartel’s brutal shenanigans. This time the crime syndicate has hired the psychotic hitman in an attempt to retrieve some money accidentally found by a local dock worker, Agustín (Mauricio Diocares). To save the dude (and of course because he already had beef), Pardo aims to take out the sick “bastard” forever and quash the whole drug market as well for fucking with his prayer time. With the help of angry working mom Antonia (Loreto Aravena), the mostly whiny Agustín, and of course a little push from the Catholic Jesus Christ, he mounts an all-out fake bible quote-laden assault on various assortments of thugs (including a whole market full of fishermen). The stakes are high, I assume with all the incoherent talk about money and asking ”God for forgiveness”, and the head honcho (Noah Segan) eventually sends reinforcements in to protect from the holy threat to his criminal empire. I almost forgot--the hero's hood always sits perfectly on his head, always, like with angry Catholic magic (or something). I feel like that's important for some reason and pretty cool.
Redeemer is the zealot lovechild of the Dolph Lundgren Punisher (The Punisher 1989) movie and The Raid: Redemption (2011) if that child was then raised by Bibleman on Batman movies and Assassin's Creed video games. The movie feels like it could have been the gritty reboot of a Christianity based comic book no one ever read. Essentially, it's a classic anti-hero story, with a grunting badass trying to atone for the death of his loved ones through a minimalist but bloody vigilante lifestyle. Released in the same year, parts are relative to John Wick (2014), as it is a heavy stylized revenge tale with brutal fight scenes, reaching for the authenticity of something like The Protector (2005). It's a straight to video sum of the modern mainstream action flick formula but done with some slightly off religious angle and the right amount of authentic b-movie grit. Its bone structure is that of a modern kung-fu flick and keeps itself extremely simple for the sake of the face smashing. The meaty scenes are built around the glorious fights that will eventually close them out but still try for that quick, witty-fast banter that other action flicks might rely on. The set dressing already looks like a makeshift arena when the hooded avenger steps into place and the camera shifts to let you know when it's time to fight, like in a video game. In the spirit of archetypes like the Ronin character, the Christianity angle serves as only the philosophical harness for what is, essentially, pissed off nutbag fury. It sticks to the angry basics and skips over the deeper biblical references. Although possibly missing an opportunity to apply Evangelion style dogma madness to its kung fu, it keeps it fun and just carves “Catholic” into its hooded ninja with Batman-voice. It is lighter fare in most regards but an interesting mix of concepts and cultures in a few others. The movie takes being ridiculous very seriously. It's refreshing, for some reason, to see the outlandish or over the top taking itself as serious as the golden era of TNT action garbage (not that I don't dig the “meta” approach as well sometimes). The solid, simple storyline shines through the dubbing, although, as always, some of the deeper details or drama might be lost on me for various reasons. The normal man on a mission action movie feel is kicked up to cartoon levels. Our vigilante and other key players could feel at home in any modern superhero movies (with a shit ton of CG and better dubbing) or possibly even those WB superhero shows (although I haven't watched any so that's based off their promos). The world in which it takes place is a lively, eccentric one where villains watch a lot of anime and show up only after you have beaten up a small hierarchy of lower bosses. There are certainly more thorough films about violent religious people, but it's a nice watch for some The Boondock Saints (1999) type fun, with enhanced fight scenes and no bitter aftertaste.
The fancy ass-kicking is front and center and, fittingly, the film puts most of its eggs in that blood-soaked basket. Its an international kung-fu/action flick with what seems like a fairly large budget, but there are the normal things to consider for the English speaking audience. As is common, the dialogue feels silly as all fuck,  mostly due to a combination of the sudo-superhero aspects or the translating. Some of the individuals on showcase are, first and foremost, bad-asses in real life and actors second, so while the action is something of true mastery, some of the acting in between can feel a little cornball. All that having been said, the film is in pretty tight form. The editing is quick and slightly stylized. It takes a few cues from recent popular mainstream films in this department but keeps it on the conservative side with its special effects. Benefiting from the cast of martial artists, the no-bullshit fight scenes are a huge point to the film's credit. Because the people that started the kung-fu scuffle are the actual ones throwing the blows, the cuts don't have to play games to hide the fighters identities. Instead, motions are fully captured, followed through completion and the final product just feels more real. Don't get me twisted, most fight scenes are fun (good, corny, Captain Kirk type shit, whatever), but putting the film’s fully performed throwdowns up against--say the fight scenes from something like Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016) would be something like comparing taco-truck tacos to the crunchy ground beef things you make at home. Both can be greasy fun in their own right (and I love almost every kind of taco night), but there is no doubt that one is superior. The whole film is brightly lit, and it contrasts its attempts at Dark Knight-like characters and gritty subject matter. The movie pauses, before a few of its brawls, to light the protagonist in some kind of Christ allusion that would make Jim Caviezel jealous. Shot in Chile, almost every fight has some beautiful scenic something going on in the background. In many ways, the style, lighting, and location during some scenes look like a real-world representation of Street Fighter 2’s arenas. There is some nice gore, especially for a flick of its kind, and it takes time to make sure you know no one is getting up after a beat down. The soundtrack is varied but continues to fall back on a random 80s synth beat and a lively rendition of the folk song made famous by Johnny Cash, "God's Gonna Cut You Down”. Despite sounding like some Stranger Things b-sides at times, the music is just silly enough to work with the whole live action anime thing the movie has going on.
Marko Zaror has a great 2000s Batman meets prudish Jason Statham thing going on.  His “Redeemer” could fit in great alongside other silly favorites like Darkman or Black Scorpion but with a few big differences. He doesn't really have a suit, just kind of a signature way he wears his hoodies, so no leather or mask. Secondly, he is a big plus to the action and its style. It's my understanding that in real life Zaror studies multiple martial arts and is, as well, a celebrated stuntman which comes through during the film’s practical fight scenes. His arch nemesis who only knows one insult, José Luís Mósca, looked creepy as fuck, and the fact that he babbled forever about the weirdest threatening shit was actually pretty unnerving, but the voice did not match that dude’s look at all. It kind of sounded like Spike from Cowboy Bebop, but as far as I know, Steve Blum was not involved. Also what was with the bastard thing? Surely not every person can be a bastard?  Noah Segan plays the cartel boss and corn balls his douchebag, ruthless leader nicely. It might have been partially his voice dubbing, but I was reminded of Mauricio from El Mariachi (1992) during every one of his scenes. 
Redeemer is a silly mess of fancy moves and moody vigilante cliches with some comic book sized takes on religion. It is very much the product of modern action film trends, but the focus on practical fight scenes and in your face elements make it feel like it came from another time. Those that have some strict religious policies will likely find some beef in there somewhere, but it's a fun dumb action flick at its core.  To its ultimate credit, it is an over the top portrayal of faith that even a bleak agnostic like myself can get down with. Plus, now I have another great example to help me understand what being handed a “mission from God” might be like. I may not be down with the whole god part, but deities look like good motivational steroids, at least in films, and that can come in handy. Luckily, I don't have to go to a church to brush up on any of these self-help strategies, I can just watch shit like Redeemer. Because--sometimes you need to go at the day as if you traded coffee for a one-man game of  Russian roulette, and some magical sky-being informed you that it was your sole duty to kick people in the fucking face. Thanks, Beef-Boy, wherever you are. I never would have reached this religious understanding without you.
1h 28min | 2014
 Director: Ernesto Díaz Espinoza
Writers: Gina Aguad, Sanz Andrea, Diego Ayala, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, Guillermo Prieto


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