Movie review: 'Fist of the Condor' showcases Marko Zaror's thrilling skills

Marko Zaror stars in "Fist of the Condor." Photo courtesy of Well Go USA
1 of 5 | Marko Zaror stars in "Fist of the Condor." Photo courtesy of Well Go USA

LOS ANGELES, March 27 (UPI) -- Marko Zaror, who menaced Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4, has been the hero of Chilean martial arts films since 2006. His latest Spanish-language film, Fist of the Condor, in theaters April 4 with English subtitles, is another solid vehicle for Zaror's impressive physical feats.

In the 16th century, Incan Rumi Maki martial artists developed the Fist of the Condor to combat Spanish invaders. In the present, El Guerrero (Zaror) guards the historic text from martial artists who want to steal it for themselves.


Hopefully, John Wick 4 encourages fans to explore more of Zaror's solo vehicles. Zaror's Chilean films are much more stripped down and Fist of the Condor is no exception, but shows just how compelling Zaror's physicality is when it's the center of the film.

Guerrero fights one opponent on the beach. The vacant beach gives Zaror an open stage to demonstrate his flips and kicks.


Then, Guerrero practices on a cliff over the ocean, and fights another opponent in an empty forest. Guerrero's opponents have to keep up with him too to make these fight scenes work, and they are all impressively acrobatic.

Guerrero flashes back to his training with Condor Woman (Gina Agaud), whose methods pay homage to classic martial arts films. Making Guerrero lift and flip logs, or learn to walk on his hands, feels like a modern update of training scenes from the likes of Drunken Master or 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

Zaror appears to be performing most of those feats himself, too. Only a few impossible jumps and flips are constructed via editing, and the cinematic magic sells them.

More homages to classic martial arts films abound. The whole notion of protecting your school comes from martial arts movies. Guerrero and his final opponent also warm up before their climactic bout like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris did in Way of the Dragon.

Guerrero also does more traditional martial arts training on a wooden dummy. However, Fist of the Condor makes clearer how hitting a block of wood applies to an actual fight by intercutting that training with a fight scene, so the viewer can see the practice in action.


Fist of the Condor is divided into chapters, which makes it feel more like a web series, but it would be a web series with incredible martial arts. Writer-director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza knows how to showcase Zaror's work after working on four other films together.

At 80 minutes including credits, Fist of the Condor is a lean martial arts vehicle for Zaror and his co-stars. The simplicity of showing graceful athletes at their best still works.

Fist of the Condor will stream on Hi-Yah April 7.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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