Best of the Fest: Mandrill at AIFF

Video store schlock-influenced Quentin Tarantino has gone on to influence countless young American filmmakers, but who knew his reach extended to Chile? Ernesto
Díaz Espinoza
, all of 32, minds his P's and Q with Mandrill, a Spanish-language, revenge-exploitation flick presented tonight at the inaugural Anaheim International Film Festival (AIFF).

Mandrill (heh-heh) is loaded with guns, disco, casino action, babes in bikinis, hot sports cars, rising body counts, tae kwon do moves, an evil one-eyed villain, a fake '70s TV action hero, movie gun silencer “dwoot-dwoot” sounds, a score worthy of a Bond flick and a handsome leading man at the center of it all.

He would be Marko Zaror, a karate/tae kwon do black belt who plays the titular assassin, choreographed the fight scenes and previously teamed with Diaz on Mirageman (2007). The cameras can't get enough of Zaror, whether The Rock's stunt double in The Rundown is dispensing with a platoon of henchmen, delivering Clint Eastwood-worthy one liners behind dark shades or dancing for his target's daughter, who he has fallen for. Hard.

She would be Celine Reymond, a dark-haired beauty with an icy stare best known from Chilean television. It's easy to see why Mandrill falls for Reymond's Dominic, but the actress obviously has a ball with the turn her character takes in the third act.

If Zaror, the plot, the music, the look of Mandrill and flashbacks to the assassin-molding “John Colt” fictional American television series do not drive home the point that this movie loves the '70s more than I Love the '70s, there is also Mandrill's “Tio Chone,” played by veteran actor Alejandro
, who oozes gold chain/tight slacks/Aqua Velva-cool as teen Mandrill's coach with ladies.

Q would approve.

Mandrill screens at 10:30 tonight (also 4:30 p.m. Sunday) with The Little Dragon, Swiss director Bruno Collet eight-minute short about Bruce Lee's soul being reincarnated in a little rubber doll.

Also recommended (barely): Broken Springs: Shine of the Undead Zombie Bastards, Neeley Lawson's homage of sorts to other no-budget zombie flicks has just enough humor and ironic stereotypes to make up for the poor acting, bad lighting and looooooong build up to the inevitable conclusion. Don't bring the kids; there are enough scary ones on screen.

Broken Springs: Shine of the Undead Zombie Bastards screens at 10:30 tonight (also 7 p.m. Saturday) with Clean Carousel, Danish director Andreas Bodker's short short about the forces of nature working against a dedicated man trying to clean a carousel for children.

Not recommended (barely): American Bully, a
brutal drama about a day in the life of high school teens led by a gung-ho, anti-immigrant senior bound for Marines, starts well. But things spiral so out of control that it's as if writers Zak Meyers and Dave Rodriguez, who also directs, wrote themselves into a corner and decided the only way out was to go with an over-the-top ending. Wrong choice.

American Bully screens at 7 tonight (and 1 p.m. Saturday).

Anaheim International Film Festival at UltraStar Cinemas at GardenWalk, 321 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 399-0300; Through Sunday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. General
screenings, $5-$10; special screenings, $12; all-day pass, $15-$30.
Master classes, workshops and panels, $10-$25 each. Awards presentation
in Sequoia Ballroom at Grand Californian Hotel, 1600 S. Disneyland Dr.,
Anaheim. Oct. 16, 5 p.m.; VIP World of Color show at California
Adventure, $150 (space limited). Closing festivities at GardenWalk
(gala, screening, after-party), Oct. 17, 5 p.m. $10-$50; all-access
pass, $350.

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