Why did I watch Mandrill? I thought it had a cool cover. Not the first time a cool looking cover made me watch a movie, and again I was not disappointed. As with all my reviews, I include a picture of the cover, or if it was a theatrical jaunt I took, the movie poster. This time as I went to do so, I did a quick search and came up with two different covers. I must say that I prefer the Canadian cover that I’ve included here over the US version, which I’ll let the reader look up for themselves, if they wish. I can’t say what exactly it was that drew me to it, perhaps memories of the old Bond posters, or perhaps just the lure of “a badass action thriller” tagline. I wasn’t paying too much attention when I picked it up, but somehow in the back of my mind I think I knew that the film was sub-titled. Mandrill came from Chile, but don’t let the sub-titles scare you, the story and action scenes are worth the read.
Mandrill is the story of Antonio Espinoza, “Mandrill” (played by Marko Zaror), who saw his parents killed when he was a child. Raised by his uncle, he asks what his father did, and why he would be assassinated. His uncle replies that his father was like John Colt. <cue cool music> John Colt is a James Bond-esque movie character within the movie. Super cool, super moves, super spy. Antonio studies the movies, learns the moves, learns how to fight, how to shoot, how to kill; but just can’t figure out how to get the ladies. His Uncle Chone teaches him “The Technique” that he and his father developed by watching John Colt movies over and over again until they were as smooth as John Colt Throughout the movie we’re treated to some decidedly “low-def” cut scenes of John Colt movies. This was an interesting bit of style used in Mandrill, a little bit homage, a little bit tongue in cheek humour. John Colt movies play on televisions in the background of some scenes, Antonio has John Colt movie posters, which look exactly like famous James Bond posters. “He’s every woman’s dream… but only one will steal his heart”…..
When first we see Mandrill, he is tracking down his latest target, fighting and killing along the way, each time asking his victims “where’s Waldo?” until he finds him. I’ll admit I enjoyed this cute little joke, perhaps a bit too much.
After completing the kill, Mandrill is offered another assignment, to capture or kill “the Cyclops”, the man who killed his parents. He traces El Cíclope, to a casino in Peru, where he sets his eyes on Dominique (Celine Reymond), the beautiful daughter of the casino owner, with the intent of using her to get to her father; but he begins an impossible romance, which can only become an obstacle to his revenge.
I must say that I really liked the Mandrill character, he was laughably awesome, like Shaft, or the cheesier James Bonds. In one scene a bellboy tells him the casino is “black tie” so he yanks the guy’s bow tie off of him, while giving him his tip. Marko Zaror, the “Latin Dragon”, oozes cool with each expertly choreographed fight. I will also quickly point out that Zaror was the fight choreographer for the film. A stuntman and superior martial artist Mandrill uses no wires, no CGI, just Zaror’s awe-inspiring spinning kicks. All the fights were visually exciting, and kinetic, but there were several where it really seemed Mandrill was going to get beaten! I loved this bit of realism. Sure he may be an amazing fighter, and a suave assassin, but there’s almost always someone out there who is equal to, or better than you. This made the movie that much more enjoyable to me. Not only does our hero seem beatable, but in several emotional scenes, he actually cries!
This was a fantastic movie, that rarely gets boring and is well played for both laughs and action. No not gut busting laughs but laughs with a nod and a wink. Mandrill is deliberately cheesy in places, especially the John Colt scenes and dreamlike sequences, which pepper the main story. Some of the humour works quite well, while much of it will induce groans from the viewer, but it’s all good fun.