This is one going into the festival I had heard absolutely nothing about, and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  What this reminded me of a little was actually Black Dynamite, but before you get too excited by that comparison (Black Dynamite is fucking AWESOME), Mandrill was very enjoyable but unfortunately held back by a few flaws.

First the positive:  The number one thing that will impress most people is the fighting skills of Mandrill played by Marco Zaror.  Apparently no wire work or CG enhancement was used for all but one sequence in which Marco would have fallen to his death.  What makes it awesome is the guy basically never simply just punches someone, instead he leaps into the air, does a triple flip and drop kicks them in the skull.  And this guy is fucking quick too.  The movie almost always has to go into slow motion when he attacks because I suspect it would happen to fast to be able to tell what he was doing otherwise! I really hope he gets more roles because this guy, put into a film with a bigger budget and more elaborate action set pieces would be killer. 

Oh, OK, I just checked him out on Wikipedia and apparently he was in Undisputed 3, and now I remember him, he was the asshole Columbian guy who got steroid shots and got to chill out on a lawn chair while the rest of the fighters had to do hard manual labor, yup he was good in that one too.

Where the movie reminded me of Black Dynamite is that you have this awesome fighting but it’s put into the framework of what is really a parody.  Instead of blaxsploitation this time they’re parodying James Bond, and in an additionional layer, parodying the low exploitation rip-off movies that sprung out of those early Bond efforts.  Mandrill idolizes a Spanish language version of James bond meets Shaft named John Colt, so all throughout the movie he busts out these awesomely cheesy one-liners and pick up lines he learned from the movies and his suave Uncle.  There's some genuine laughs to be had courtesy of this story, but unfortunately, and this brings me to the flaws, the movie gets derailed midway through by a romantic sub-plot that drags on a little longer than it probably should have little action to break it up until the last section of the movie.

See the premise of the movie is that Mandrill has become an assassin for hire, but his ultimate goal is to get revenge against the drug lord who murdered his parents, The Cyclops.  He discovers that the only way to get to The Cyclops is through his beautiful daughter, so Mandrill sets out to woo her and then “pump her for information” if you know what I mean.  Of course the clichés kick in about now and he ends up really falling for her and has to decide whether or not to get his revenge at the cost of her broken heart.  There’s some funny parts in this section of the movie (a dance scene is pretty amusing because of the cheesiness of the song) but what I really wanted to see was more fighting.

The other thing I didn’t like very much (and I can’t say for sure if it is a fault of the actual movie or if it was just the digital file we saw at the festival, so this may not be a flaw at all on the part of the filmmakers), but this movie is pretty goddamn butt ugly.  The movie appeared to have been shot on some fairly low end digital equipment and there was really distracting aliasing and macro-blocking all over the place. The image had a washed out color pallet with fuzzy details and an overall incredibly cheap look.  I’m used to productions that aren’t up to big budget Hollywood standards. I have learned to tolerate and even enjoy some digitally filmed presentations, and sometimes that can even work in a movie’s favor, but here I felt it was detrimental.  I’d imagine a lot of people, if they were to see a trailer would probably skip the movie just because of the look of it, and that would really be a shame because it is a lot of fun.

All in all, despite some minor flaws, Mandrill was a fun, low budget action comedy that I highly recommend to anyone looking to have some laughs and see some great martial arts action at the same time.  I hope to see more from Marco Zaror!