Mandrill Ernesto Diaz Espinoza

Mandrill Ernesto Diaz Espinoza
This third-camp-hampered collaboration between writer/director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and star Marko Zaror is a blatantly Bond, Shaft and Bruce Lee-worshiping martial arts/espionage flick that falls somewhere between homage and parody. After being introduced to the slick dispatching methods of the suave titular contract killer and fed the impression of a revenge plot, a flashback confirms the implied history behind Mandrill's drive: his parents were murdered when he was a child. In adhering to the norms set by the pictures it's referencing, this tragedy would be enough to account for the cool, calculated killer that young Antonio becomes, but in its one woefully underdeveloped saving grace, Mandrill takes a vague stab at commenting on how we learn to emulate whatever popular cultural iconography we fixate upon. Antonio's specific desire to be a well-groomed, womanizing vigilante is born of a lie his aging lothario uncle tells about the bereaved boy's father's occupation — that he was like John Colt, a cut-rate, extra cheese-ball Chilean Green Hornet/Shaft hybrid knock-off. The man shaped by this fib is a cocky assassin of fierce reputation, in possession of a certain equine handsomeness, who does push-ups with shades on while watching John Colt films between hits. Just how far Mandrill's tongue is buried in its cheek is never entirely clear. The film is shot from the perspective of a man with a childishly idealized, exuberant view of life, but Espinoza never tips his hand far enough to let us know if this is Mandrill the character's view or simply his as the architect of Mandrill's world. The special features do nothing to illuminate. "Behind the Scenes" is just that — a brief reel of on-set footage offered without comment. Like the film, the supplemental material is focused on the fight scenes, which, while lacking in choreographic elegance or ingenuity, are nonetheless fairly engaging, especially in this form, where every fancy spin and windmill kick isn't overly stylized with lingering slow motion, to the point of straining the audience's perception of the performers' credulity. The shooting of three full fights, again without comment, is the only other feature, leaving the aggressively mediocre and tonally indistinct film to speak for itself, and its voice is too meek to warrant attention. (Mongrel Media)