A-hunting we will go, in war actioner ‘Condor’s Nest’

Condor’s Nest is the sort of film that often surfaces in the dead month of January in “selected situations.” Meaning, it’s a fairly hard-to-sell, no-movie-stars action potboiler with a vaguely newsworthy plot.

In this case, it’s a hunt for fugitive German Nazi war criminals on the run from international justice following World War II. That is, it takes viewers to a place they think they already know (from many other movies) for a rousing chase adventure involving villains they’re also familiar with (despicable, arrogant Nazis), struggling against action heroes who are not that different from the rest of us. 

Not that writer-director Phil Blattenberger doesn’t give the “World War II Will Never End” scenario a shaky sheen of credibility. For U.S. Army Air Corps gunner Will Spalding (Jacob Keohane), the troubles begin over Eastern France in 1944, when he and his B-17 bomber crew are forced by flak fire to crash-land in the countryside. 

Before the German forces arrive at the scene, Spalding is ordered to take a position nearby with a sniper rifle, in case the enemy violates the rules of war. Which of course they do. SS Colonel Bach (South African actor Arnold Vosloo) ruthlessly murders the entire crew while Spalding looks on through his rifle sight helplessly, evidently seized by panicky indecision. 

There’s the germ of a potentially fascinating story in Spalding’s dereliction of duty. In another filmmaker’s hands, his remorse over the deadly incident might lead to a psychological character study on the subject of wartime cowardice. Goaded by inner torment, Spalding might spend the rest of his life trying to atone for his inaction. Filmmaker Blattenberger, however, takes a different approach. 

Immediately after the massacre, the setting shifts to Argentina in 1954. Spalding is there on a one-man mission to hunt down Bach and kill him personally, to avenge the slaughter of his buddies. The Latin American hunting ground for this is enormous—Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay are notorious for their German refugee populations, some of them suspected fugitives from war crimes prosecution. 

The main challenge is how to locate one particular ex-Nazi in this vast continent. Further, it is established that the Nazi criminals have surrounded themselves with a network of armed supporters. Bach reportedly lives in a remote hideout dubbed the Condor’s Nest. 

Relative newcomer filmmaker Blattenberger has one other movie under his belt, the 2019 Vietnam War actioner Point Man. From the looks of Condor’s Nest, the indie auteur does not seem particularly interested in probing the moral/psychological inner workings of his characters. 

As lone wandering avenger Spalding, actor Keohane (Halloween Kills) wears the same crazed look on his face from the moment he arrives in Buenos Aires until he rides away victoriously on his motorcycle. Confronted by a succession of unrepentant Nazis, Spalding’s strategy is to immediately shoot as many of them as possible.

So many Nazi goons, so little time. As Spalding crisscrosses the continent—the film was shot on location in four different South American countries, plus Nevada and North Carolina—bizarre characters come flying in from all angles. Most annoying of these is Fritz Ziegler, a manic Teutonic chatterbox and cocaine sniffer played in a froth by Jackson Rathbone from the Twilight saga. Action flick vets Bruce Davison, Michael Ironside and Adrienne McQueen chip in as other assorted baddies. 

There’s also an Israeli Mossad agent (Corinne Britti) on the prowl for guilty Third Reichers too, and a German nuclear physicist (Al Pagano) working for the Soviets, just to muddy up the story. But the movie’s biggest whopper is the appearance of ur-fiend Heinrich Himmler (James Urbaniak). 

All the German bigwigs are excited by the discovery of an ancient Aryan skull from the lost city of Atlantis that will magically help them revive Hitler’s nutsy “folkhood” dream world. Huh? Condor’s Nest is not an irritatingly bad movie, but it might have been more fun as a comic book.

In theaters and streaming

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