Kiltro (2006) / Action-Thriller

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for stylized bloody action
Running time: 93 min

Cast: Marko Zaror, Caterina Jadresic, Miguel Angel De Luca, Luis Alarcon, Alejandro Castillo, Man Soo Yoon, Daniela Lhorente, Roberto Avendano, Zimena Rivas, Alex Rivera, Francisco Castro
Director: Ernesto Diaz Espinoza

Screenplay: Ernesto Diaz Espinoza
Review published April 2, 2008

Chilean actor and stuntman Marko "The Latin Dragon" Zaror, who doubled The Rock in The Rundown, gets to put his martial arts skills to use in Kiltro, a b-movie homage of old kung fu, spaghetti westerns and 1980s martial arts romance.  He plays Zamir, member of a gang of slackers known as the Kiltros, whose days are spent in agony over an overwhelming infatuation with the local half-Korean beauty, Kim (Jadresic).  He once saved Kim from a couple of thugs and got a kiss, so he spends every day trying to fight anyone who so much as gives her the time of day, which doesn't really score him many points.  A true threat finally emerges in Max Kalba (De Luca), who has an obsession of his own for the young woman, but not one so much as lust as blood lust.  

Perhaps not quite the splash debut to international audiences that Tony Jaa enjoyed with Ong-Bak, Zaror's fim nevertheless entertains with its earnest embracing of convention.  For a film that isn't much more than a collection of genre staples mixed together, there is an appeal for viewers who know and love even the cheesiest of examples of martial arts entertainment, and by blending in a mix of other styles, what's stale can seem fresh again, if you're in tune with the approach.  By the time we see Zaror run through the streets to shake off pent-up angst to the tune of David Bowie's "Modern Love" we know we're in good hands.

Zaror may not be most innovative martial artist, but he does have an imposing physical presence due to his size.  With the help of some skillful editing, some cable-pulled body tosses, and a few special effects blood shots tossed in, he just gets by faking it -- like in The Last Dragon he has mastered the skill of fighting without knowing how to fight.  Delivering a variety of spin-kicks and leg sweeps, Zaror concentrates more on martial arts style over brutality.  Given his stature, he probably could have gotten by using his large body by being a crushing bruiser in the mold of Steven Seagal, but I'll give him some credit for at least attempting to be as graceful as Bruce Lee, even if he falls a bit short of achieving it.

Kiltro's liability is in the use of Hi-Def DV cameras to shoot its action, rather than conventional film.  Although it's not a bad example of its type in this regard, the lifelike textures of the digital cameras give the film a kind of home video quality (albeit a well-made one) that doesn't really give us a chance to suspend proper disbelief when Zamir comes out in full face-paint in his final showdown with Kalba.  In its favor, by this point, we've come to accept and even admire director Espinoza's semi-comic approach to the martial arts genre, very much like those Hollywood martial arts flicks of the 1980s, like Blind Fury, Karate Kid, and the aforementioned The Last Dragon -- films that showed the protagonist as both lover and fighter.  If it feels cheap, so be it -- a film this corny probably doesn't need technical brilliance.

Kiltro probably won't be confused with a truly good martial arts film by most aficionados, but it is a fun entry, and for that, it is recommended for those who enjoy a spirited throwback.  There probably isn't much crossover appeal, but for those who like their fight flicks with irreverence and style, you'll probably get a kick out of Kiltro.

Qwipster's rating:

©2008 Vince Leo