Condor’s Nest review – Tarantino-esque Nazi-hunt thriller heads for the pampas

Director Phil Blattenberger wears his love for the genre on his sleeve, but this allows him to outrun the film’s uneven execution and loose plot

American director Phil Blattenberger gets props here for stretching his budget clingfilm-thin to mount a respectable revival of a bygone genre: the you’ve-only-gone-and-blown-the-bloody-doors-off wartime 1960/70s action-adventure. Well, to be precise, the post-wartime action-adventure, with some sweeping pampas vistas and strategically deployed name casting – including a fleeting glimpse of old warhorse Michael Ironside – pepping up a South American Nazi hunt.

“They say the man who seeks revenge should dig two graves,” is the advice proffered to one-time allied sniper Will Spalding (Jacob Keohane). He is in Argentina to atone for failing to protect his B17 crewmates when they are downed near enemy lines. Torturing and assassinating his way down a list of German expats, he is hunting for Colonel Martin Bach (The Mummy’s Arnold Vosloo), who executed his comrades in cold blood. A chance encounter in a bar with atomic physicist Albert Vogel (Al Pagano) points to where Bach is lying low, but the Mossad operative Leyna Rahn (Corinne Britti) is itching to liquidate the scientist before he can assist Spalding.

With Bach acting as security chief to a certain A-list goosestepper imagined here to have survived the war, Blattenberger decides to ride the Tarantinoesque alt-history high road. Sometimes this inspiration becomes too apparent, especially in Jackson Rathbone’s genially menacing Nazi barfly – reminiscent of Christoph Waltz’s Hans Landa – and a digression on eugenics that echoes the skull scene in Django Unchained. But despite this, as well as a loose hand on the plotting rudder and often-shaky direction, Blattenberger’s energetic screenplay, with its obvious love for the genre, allows him to outrun these problems.

Keohane is unremittingly dour in the lead and – until presented with a last-minute devil’s bargain that weighs up the meaning of heroism – not really called on to leaven it with introspection. But Pagano lives it up with an urbane playfulness as the scientist of uncertain allegiances, and Vosloo has an imposing dark integrity as the unapologetic party man. Despite the uneven execution, Condor’s Nest has just enough bite.

• Condor’s Nest is available on digital platforms on 20 March.


Phil Hoad

The GuardianTramp

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