Sunday, October 25, 2009

Kiltro (2006)

The young Chilean Zamir (Marko Zaror) is the leader of a rather un-thuggish gang - or are they just a youth club? - known as (the) Kiltro(s).

After he rescued the young "Korean" girl Kim (Caterina Jadresic) from two rapists and got a kiss as reward, he of course fell in love with her. For two years now, he has been dogging each of her steps, punching every man who just so much as looks at her in the face. For some completely unfathomable reason, Kim is unimpressed by this kind and gentle courting and chooses instead to go out with a nice, blocky young gentleman known as The Maniac. It's enough to drive a stalking thug into depression.

All this is going to change when Max Kalba (Miguel Angel De Luca) returns to town and proceeds to kill some of the older men of the community, taking vengeance for past troubles which will be explained in exhaustive flashbacks throughout the film. For us, it will be enough to know that all of Max's victims belong to the martial arts sect of the Zetas and that Kim's father (Man Soo Yoon) is the one among them Max likes the least.

Soon, Zamir has a little run-in with Max when trying to protect Kim who has unfortunately learned nothing at all about fighting from her father. Of course, Zamir is thoroughly beaten, all his friends killed and Kim's father kidnapped (don't worry, Kim herself will be kidnapped soon enough too).

The dwarf Nik Nak (Roberto Avendano), another Zeta, takes care of Zamir and Kim, and sends our hero on the usual training journey so that he can learn how to better kill people and return to give Max a thorough killing to finally get his girl. Yay for feminism!

Kiltro is the first cooperation between writer/producer/director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and his star the actor/martial artist Marko Zaror. Both would very soon go on to make the excellent Mirageman together.

People who like to talk about stuff like that call Kiltro "the first Chilean martial arts film". That may well be true, it's just too bad that Kiltro isn't a good Chilean martial arts film.

Most of the film's problems can easily be explained through the inexperience of everyone involved and the usual lack of funds, but that doesn't make the thing much easier to watch.

It all begins with the acting. Zaror hasn't yet developed anything beyond a slack-faced stare into the camera, which makes it difficult to sympathize with a character who hasn't a lot of personality anyway, and who kills a lot more people in the course of the film than the supposed bad guy does. The other actors are even worse. Jadesic might be pretty, but is cursed with terrible "Asian" make-up and a role purely as an object that is to be rescued or kidnapped. Everyone else is mostly dreadful in one way or the other.

If the fights were numerous and good enough to distract from the acting, all this wouldn't be much of a problem in a martial arts film, but there isn't really all that much fighting going on and what is there is filmed in a mix of shaky cam and bad editing that shows as little as possible of what is going on. Which is somewhat ironic in a film whose best assets should be the martial arts skills of its lead actor.

Then there's the script, a Joseph Campbell inspired mess mostly consisting of scenes you know from other, better realized movies, stitched together without much of an idea about how to make a narrative out of them or how to merge the film's comedic aspirations with the melodramatic plot. Especially annoying are the repeated flashbacks that show the backstory in useless detail and stretch the film's budget and my patience as a viewer to a breaking point without any pay-off. And how could I forget one of the longest and most boring training sequences in martial arts history, cleverly consisting of Zaror's naked behind and lots of would-be philosophical talk, but little physical activity?

Basically, Kiltro shares the enthusiasm about filmmaking and the love for genre film that Mirageman would go on to channel into an extremely fine film, but does everything wrong the later film would do right. There are a few promising moments in here - a handful of cleverly set-up shots, thirty seconds of a fight scene, a few jokes that are actually funny, that sort of thing - but nothing I'd even mention without the knowledge of how good Espinoza and Zaror have shown themselves at learning from their mistakes.

I really can't recommend Kiltro unless you are such a big admirer of Mirageman that you just have to see what Espinoza and Zaror did first. Mirageman however...


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