Walid (2023)

Posted in Reviews by - October 15, 2023
Walid (2023)

This starts slowly and then gets really wild in the final act – a little too wild, perhaps, given how measured and earnest the movie begins. Walid (Megat Sharizal) is a nurturing, virtuous man of god who teaches poor, immigrant children how to read and write. He befriends Aisha (Putri Qaseh), a poor, illiterate country girl and refugee living with a no-nonsense mother (Feiyna Tajudin) who is not afraid to kick some thugs into touch if they step near her chicken coop. Despite being told otherwise, Aisha accepts candy from a stranger – the oldest paedophile trick in the book – and she is promptly kidnapped, sold into the child sex trade, and thrown into a big cage by people smugglers. Despite his placid, benevolent good nature, Walid is also, quite surprisingly, a bit of Silat expert, and quite fond of breaking limbs and throwing axes into people’s faces. He storms the gangsters lair while working with two local law enforcers and promptly starts to smash skulls in a bid to free Aisha and lots of other stolen kids. During the relentless melee that forms the basis of the entire final act, it becomes hard work trying to follow or care about the line of new characters who line up to take their beating. Some of the non-linear editing feels disjointed also, and without context or backstory, much of the violence seems purely superficial. It’s a shame because the choreography – deep-rooted in Malay Silat – is flashy and performed well. Given her scene-stealing performance in Bakar’s previous Silat film, The Deed of Death, it would have been cool to have seen Feiyna Tajudin involved in at least some of the action at the end; and for the international audience, more knowledge concerning the attitude towards illegal immigration in Malaysia may have helped to add a clearer arc to Aisha’s journey, which is ultimately neglected anyway in favour of Walid’s violent retribution. The resulting film is a valid effort but it feels undisciplined, and not as good as The Deed of Death, Bakar’s impressive directorial debut.

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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