Merantau (2009)

Posted in Reviews by - July 27, 2012
Merantau (2009)

Uneven action movie from Indonesia which wrestles an Ong-Bak-lite storyline with swathes of lingering, detached close-ups. Despite its pacing issues, Welsh director Gareth Evans can clearly film a decent fight scene, using his Indonesian cast to promote the traditional style of pencak silat – or, more specifically, the tiger form style of silat harimau – attempting to do for the art what Tony Jaa did for Muay Thai. Debuting star Iko Uwais plays Yuda, who leaves his farming family and simple village life in West Sumarta for the bright lights of Jakarta on a traditional coming-of-age journey, referred to as his ‘merantau’. His mother is right to be worried. Yuda hits the bright lights and immediately discovers that his lodgings have been destroyed and his only contact has abandoned him. He sleeps illegally on a building site, befriending a damsel-in-distress in the form of a nightclub dancer, played by Jessica Sisca. She’s at the mercy of the club’s management; a suited duo of western sex tourists with indiscernible accents who run an undercover prostitution racket, something which Yuda inevitably smashes up using his vibrant silat skills. The motive for his sudden bloodlust is unconvincing, but it does lead to some highly charged confrontations with a relentless supply of extras who are convincingly snuffed out in a typically post Ong-Bak fashion. Iko Uwais makes for a coy, charming and very watchable lead, injecting vitality into the excellent action scenes and possessing a conviction which points to a bright future. It’s a shame for him that, at times, the film feels baggy and laboured.

AKA: Merantau Warrior.

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