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After many decades of watching films I thought I had just about seen every possible genre of movies. We have all watched genres become more and more specific in their nature and production. For example the noble action flick may have started back in the days of Errol Flynn and his swashbuckling ways. Then Hollywood discovered the big budget action flick with such classics as the ‘Die Hard’ franchise. Action then branched out over seas as Asian action; particularly Hong Kong films dominated the genre. Never in my wildest flights of imagination did I ever think that I would have get a chance to preview a Chilean action flick. Well, one has arrived, Kiltro. This represents a new beginning for the film industry in that county and it starts things off better than you might expect. Chilean writers and directors have taken the more natural route before of emulating spaghetti westerns and romantic dramas. The fact is they have a booming film industry down there and it is high time that we in the States opened our minds and realized it. Once you get pass the subtitles or dubbing you are in for a treat here. ‘Kiltro’ combines elements of romance, revenge and pure action into a film that will pleasantly surprise you. This film combines the best of Hong Kong martial arts flicks with the sheer fun of the spaghetti western. To be fair some of the computer generated special effects are not up to contemporary standards but then again in this country many movie goers tend to have a bias towards big budget, cutting edge CGI. Now thanks to the good folks over at Magnolia Home Entertainment you can expand your horizons and be the first in your group of friends to be knowledgeable about Chilean action movies.

The film is directed and written by Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, his first time in a feature film for both roles. Forget for a moment that this is a foreign film, from our viewpoint; this is a freshman effort that works well and demonstrates amazing promise for this man. It is usually a good rule for a novice writer and director to stick to one genre. Here Espinoza takes the best from Italian low budget westerns, mixes in Asian action and spices the whole thing up with a nice dose of the Spanish dramatic novella. He employs a style that verges on cinema verité bringing the camera directly into the action. This technique is apparently very popular in South American films but like most film buffs here in the States I have not had a lot of experience with their movies. One theme that pervades the story is universal but has long been embraced in most Spanish communities; the man goes to any lengths to protect his woman. This transcends the movie from just another mindless action flick to something different, the action romance. In a way this makes for a great date film; action for the guys and a romantic story for the ladies. Even the villain in this film has a sense of dignity and stature. He is not the typical low life with skills that many action flicks portray but a man who is a worthy opponent for the hero. In the making of this film Espinoza does not follow others he leads the way.

The opening of the film shows just how great the cinematographer, Victor J. Atkin is, especially considering this is also his first time in that job. He has sweeping scenes of the Chilean landscape. It ranges from a desert with small patches of green to a deep blue sky and finally waves crashing on the shore. A man sits in a cave with a fire in front of him. He is attended to by a little person who feeds the fire. The man is applying paint to his face and speaks of fear, hate and rage being driven by the most powerful of emotions, love. The scene cuts to a dance club where young men and women are enjoying themselves. A man, Zamir (Marko Zaror) is off to the side watching a young woman, Kim (Caterina Jadresic) on the dance floor. The man she is dancing with pulls her close and grabs at her butt. Zamir goes off in a rage flinging himself at the man. Zamir threatens to come to the man’s home to kill him; the man responds that he will be waiting. The next morning Zamir makes good on his promise and goes to the home. The man arrives but is with a group of other men. The group encircles the men as they face off. With a single flying kick Zamir knocks out the man and the crowd disperses. This is demonstrative of the efficiency of Espinoza’s style. He wastes little time in establishing that Zamir is passionate, unbridled and extremely well trained in martial arts. Zamir is the leader of a group of men called the Kltro. They are mostly content with sitting about instead of proactively working as criminals. In the past Zamir has saved Kim from being raped. Although he obsesses over her Kim sees him as little more than a source of self indulgence amusement. She goes so far as to get him to fight all the students in here father’s dojo just for something to do. She is turned on by the fact that he is wiling to fight for her even if it will never amount to gaining her affections.

This goes on for awhile until Max Kalba (Miguel Angel De Luca) arrives on the scene. He blames Kim’s father for the infidelity of his beloved late wife and is not set upon ruining the man. Kalba intends to take on and defeat not only Kim’s father nut his entire dojo as well. As Kalba begins to defeat the students one by one it is apparent that none of them have the skills required to take him on. It falls to Zamir to save the day. As is always the case in a film like this Zamir is much to undiscipline to face the villain. He must go to the desert to seek out a master who can train him. Naturally, this training is as much about philosophy as it is fighting. While this has been done to death in most films here the circumstances and talent contained in this production gives it a fresh feel.

If you look at the credits of the cast and crew of this film it is incredible that so many are working of their first film. This is professionalism at its best and if this is a first opus then I for one can’t wait for the follow up films. The production is tight without the need for artistic tricks or film school methodology. Every one involved in this production does a better job in presenting a film than many I have seen lately. One of the few people here with any sort of cinematic resume is Marko Zaror. He had worked as a stunt double for Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Like the Rock this man is built like a brick out house. Despite his massive size this man can move. His speed is blinding and his agility a thing of beauty to watch. According to some notes on the film the director had to slow things down in he fight scenes to make it seem the other stunt men had a chance of some sort. Zaror spends most of the first act of the film slumped over looking more like a looser than a man of action. By the time the final fight comes along he is standing tall and ready for action.

Chilean action films may be uncharted territory for must of us but if Kiltro is any indication at all this won’t be the case for long Magnolia Home Entertainment has been well known and appreciated for a long time as a source of some of the most interesting independent films around. Now they are bringing deserving foreign films like this to the American market. The film is in 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 audio tracks in the original language and dubbed in English. There is a commentary track featuring Espinoza as well as some extended and deleted scenes. This is a must watch film that will make you a fan of Chilean cinema.

Posted 02/15/08

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