The Chilean movie industry isn’t known for its martial arts productions. In fact, it’s not really known for anything at all, at least not by me. So not only was this my first Chilean action film, it was also the first film I’d seen at all from this South American nation. No big deal, I thought, as there are plenty of countries whose films I haven’t seen. However, after watching the first 15 minutes, I was soon intrigued, and now I just want to know whether all Chilean films are this bonkers.
Taking inspiration from the spaghetti western genre, Kiltro is very much a revenge western, transposed to this new setting, and with high kicks and flailing swords instead of six-shooters, and a muscle-bound tae kwon do master instead of Clint Eastwood. There are even overt references to the genre, including what is a basically a pair of spurred boots put to devastatingly lethal use in the movie’s finale.
The story revolves around a wayward young man by the name of Zamir (played by Marko Zaror). He’s part of a gang, and spends a good deal of his time fighting. As it turns out, most of the fights he gets into are over a girl, but sadly it’s a case of unrequited love, and he’s soon sent packing. However, disaster strikes for both of them when an old face reappears with vengeance in mind. Before long, Zamir is the only person who can stop him…
As bizarre as the idea of a western-influenced, South American martial arts film is, the strange cultural references and borrowings don’t stop there. As if to reflect the real-life fashion of the 60s and 70s (when many spaghetti westerns were released) the film’s hero spends the majority of his time sporting a rather colourful pair of flares. The rest of his gang all seem to dress in a similar way. On top of this, it seems that the city they inhabit is, in fact, 1970s New York. As if to reinforce this further, between the Good, The Bad And The Ugly type music, there are brief aural excursions in blacksploitation funk saxophone. Throw in a bad guy who appears to be a direct cross between Lee Van Kleef, a classic Bond villain and George Lucas, and you’ve got a movie that really shouldn’t work.
Somehow, though, it does, and you find yourself being swept along with Kiltro’s bloody violence and unabashed romanticism. Zaror’s athleticism and agility are remarkable for a man whose physique is of almost cartoon-like proportions (I kept thinking of Ryu from Streetfighter 2), and the action is reasonably well choreographed. There are even a few moments of genuinely surprising slapstick comedy thrown in for good measure.
In the end, it’s hard to know what to make of Kiltro. It’s like someone took random movies from each of the last four decades and put them together in a blender. At times, this odd mixture brings forth moments of true brilliance, while at others, it doesn’t really work. What’s clear, though, is that its leading man has star quality, and if you want a good action movie for a night in, Kiltro could well be it.