Puerto Rico’s first martial arts action film is quite a thrill of a ride with some pretty good fight scenes and a few nice twists and turns in the story.
Chelo is a young supermarket worker who trains each morning in martial arts. He is in a stable relationship with Cristina. She longs to have a puppy and at first, Chelo is reluctant. However, he ultimately decides to get the puppy and heads to Santurce to go to a pet store. When Chelo gets lost, he goes on foot to find the pet store when he sees a mob boss named Federico Lopez and a group of his men kill a man.
When Lopez sees Chelo, he is chased down by Lopez’s men, led by the very tough and arrogant Gil, whose father was the original boss before he passed on with Lopez taking over the mob. As Chelo now fears for his life, things get worse when in the midst of things, Chelo is mistaken as one of the mobsters and is hunted down by detectives Artiaga and Suarez. To make matters worse, to lure Chelo, Lopez has Cristina kidnapped. However, a twist of fate is in store for everyone involved and Chelo must rely on his fighting skills to once and for all save his girlfriend and make things right.
Martial arts action films are now a global thing and while many countries are now churning out more and more fight films as of late, in 2011, the tiny island of Puerto Rico unleashed their first in the genre. And like many other martial arts films, the genre gives a chance for some new talents to emerge and this film introduces two amazing martial artists who make a heck of a debut here in the roles of the protagonist and main antagonist.
Jose Manuel takes the lead as Chelo, a normal joe who loves martial arts and is seen in the opening credits practicing in the early morning. He holds a job at the local supermarket and shows some good chemistry with Melissa Serrano, who plays girlfriend Cristina, who works at a local daycare who in the set-up scene, sees how stressful her job can be. Within twenty minutes of the film, we see Manuel finding himself nearly in fight after fight as he takes on the Lopez mob after he witnesses a murder (hence the name of the film).
Fellow martial arts ace Gil Sanabria is quite the surprise as Gil, Lopez’s right-hand man who is the son of the former boss. Sanabria plays Gil as a very tough and hot-headed henchman who deep down feels that because his father was the boss, he should be next in line. However, for the most part, he does remain loyal to Lopez, played by Jorge Antares. Yet deep down, something is brewing inside Gil and if you have seen these types of films before, there is a bit of that predictability.
Both Manuel and Sanabria worked together on the film’s fight sequences and it is clear these two were inspired by Hong Kong action cinema. They make good use of the locality in San Juan to shoot their fight scenes and Sanabria wows the audience with his brand of flipping and kicks with Manuel showing a Jackie Chan-style approach to his fight scenes as he and his fellow stunt guys make good use of the locations, including a fight scene in an abandoned building that looks reminiscent to Heart of the Dragon’s final fight scene.
El Testigo is quite a wild action film that has that Hong Kong inspired action, good use of locations, and some great fights courtesy of both Jose Manuel and Gil Sanabria.
WFG RATING: B
APM Entertaiment presents a Non-Studios production. Director: Andres Ramirez. Producers: Annabelle Mullen and Ricky Ponce de Leon. Writers: Jose Manuel and Andres Ramirez. Cinematography: Andres Ramirez. Editing: Andres Ramirez.
Cast: Jose Manuel, Gil Sanabria, Melissa Serrano, Carlos Alfonso, Jorge Antares, Manolo Castro, Carlos Alberto Lopez, Josean Rivera Vaquer, Angel Vazquez, Ernesto Franco.