In this blast of dynamite from Chile, Zaror plays a Transporter-esque hit man who calls himself Mandrill. Since the name doesn’t translate from the Spanish language, it may refer to the baboon-like primate or the miner’s tool, or could be a purposeful pun on machismo. Given that the character learns ass-kicking from a series of secret-agent flicks from the ’70s and skirt-chasing from his uncle, I’ll guess the latter.
His latest assignment arrives with a $50 million reward: slaying the mafia drug lord Cyclops (Juan Pablo Aliaga), so named for losing an eye the night he murdered Mandrill’s parents as the youth watched from a closet. Infiltrating the man’s lavish casino — a lively setting for such a picture — Mandrill stakes out his target, and inadvertently falls for Cyclops’ daughter, Dominique (a sexy Celine Reymond), in the process.
What makes Mandrill so irresistible is more than Zaror’s amazing displays of martial arts, which he executes with spins and zeal; it’s his character’s fallibility, too. Not every punch he throws lands anywhere but a puff of air; not every move he makes works as intended. After all, Mandrill has taken his cues from the cheesy movies of action icon John Colt (the in-film fake trailer for Colt’s Code Name: Carpe Diem is priceless), and cinema equals fantasy.
That leaves Mandrill with having to rely equally on his natural charm. Nowhere is this better displayed than an alluring dance number with Dominique. It’s as likely to seduce viewers as it does her.
Most revenge thrillers would end at this film’s one-hour mark, but Espinoza has more surprises in store. With one questionable transitionary effect aside, his self-knowing style choices for the whole of Mandrill burn bright. From super-saturated colors to an opening credits sequence that is total Tarantino, the movie enchants as a delicious slice of pulp. —Rod Lott