Over the past six months or so, I’ve realized that one of the few perks of having your own blog is that people occasionally send you some really cool stuff. A few days ago I received an e-mail from Emmanuel Manzanares. Mr. Manzanres heads up an independent martial arts stunt team in Chicago known as LBP Stunts Chicago. His team made the short film Yo Soy Un Hombre Loco (I Am a Crazy Man) in conjunction with writer/director Vlad Rimburg. Mr. Manzares asked for my opinion of this work, and I obliged. I’m glad I did, because I found this 10 minute oddity to be quite an experience.
As the opening credits began, I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect, though I figured it would be of the action/martial arts persuasion. As the film opens, a well-dressed gentlemen billed simply as Number 1 (Shawn Bernal) is shown prancing through the entranceway/courtyard of an apartment complex. He waves his hands as though conducting an invisible symphony orchestra, seemingly in his own world (think Gary Oldman’s character in Leon: The Professional). This is juxtaposed with footage of Number 2 (Emmanuel Manzanares) meeting with someone in a public restroom. Both scenes are done in dreamy slow motion and set to mournful classical music. Not a peep of dialogue is spoken.
As Number 1 enters apartment 2907, the fireworks begin. His entrance is followed by a brief yet leisurely slow motion pan over the front section of the apartment seen through a fisheye lens. He makes shockingly short work of crew that is holding a young woman hostage. While twirling like a classically trained dancer, he administers a brutal beating to each man, one at a time. The moves are lightning fast and concise. Every blow appears to make full contact. None of the techniques are overly fancy or intricate. It’s all about the shortest and most direct route between point A and point B. The sound track delivers each blow with a sickening thud or a roach stomping crunch. The well timed combination of sound and image is wince inducing. It’s all perfectly rendered. It also feels quite alien due to the setting. There are also some of the nicest blood spatters I’ve seen since the action classics of the late 1980’s.
Towards the end of the apartment rescue (at the 3:26 mark), it is revealed that the bathroom confrontation glimpsed earlier also resulted in fisticuffs. The aftermath is equally bloody, with Number 2 emerging as the victor. Voice over narration by Number 2 begins at the 4:12 mark. He refers to himself as the crazy man of the title. We then see that Number 1 has in fact killed the woman that was being held hostage. Or maybe the team in her apartment was supposed to be protecting her, but decided to use her as a human shield when her killer finally showed up? It boggles the mind.
Number 2 then begins to reveal his training regimen. He also reveals his intention of challenging Number 1 in order relieve him of his status as “the best.” The action then cuts to a boardwalk confrontation between the two. This fight takes up the entire second half of the film, and is in no way a let down from what has come before. Two highly skilled opponents are shown facing off against each other.
Yo Soy Un Hombre Loco (I Am a Crazy Man) is a strange beast. To the unseasoned viewer it plays like some kind of pretentious student film. Without warning, it explodes with some of the best fight choreography I’ve seen this year including theatrical releases. It becomes an exercise in nearly dialogue free storytelling, and ends on a rather sad note. I have no idea what to make of it all, yet I’ve watched it three times since Mr. Manzanares e-mailed me the link. It’s thoroughly fascinating. If there is a conclusion to be drawn from this work, I’m guessing that it may be the futility of pyrrhic victories. Or maybe it’s about the foolhardiness of coveting a title that requires bloodshed to attain. Either way, it makes for good action viewing. Thanks, Mr. Manzanares!