Monday, May 12, 2014

Film Review: Merantau (2009)

Merantau (Review)
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Streaming
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...the action is spectacular..."

Yuda (Iko Uwais), a master of Silat, leaves his rural home to follow the Merantau tradition and seek life experience and success on his own...

Merantau continues to follow Yuda as he realizes his life alone will be more difficult due to unexpected circumstances. Homeless and alone, Yuda's wallet is stolen by a young beggar boy who leads him on a wild chase to his sister, Astri (Sisca Jessica), who works as a dancer for an abusive pimp. From then on, Yuda finds his purpose in saving Astri and her younger brother. The film leads to a tense and powerful ending -- unexpected, and likely not what most film fans will enjoy, but definitely memorable and strong.

Merantau is an Indonesian action-drama. Those seeking pure action won't find much in the first 30 minutes. Instead, this film's first act focuses much more on Yuda's character and the concept of Merantau. I thought it worked very well as buildup for the ferocious second and third acts of the film. The action choreography is smooth and consistent, there are a few scenes that didn't feel right, though. Otherwise, the rest of the film, after the first 30 minutes, is filled chase, cat-and-mouse, and fight sequences. Much of the film reminded me of Tony Jaa's Ong Back, which is a good thing.

My biggest gripe with the film is the villains -- and, yes, they're treated as villains you'd see in a superhero film. The stereotypical, ultra-cliché English guys in a foreign country is so bland and boring, and even unrealistic. Especially towards the end when these guys are like "We know martial arts, too!", and even during scenes where they speak to each other or others about nonsense. I mean, I'm not saying these type of guys can't be antagonist, but the way they're presented in Merantau takes away a lot from the authenticity of the film.

Iko Uwais delivers a dramatic, believable performance, and he also delivers the action. Sisca Jessica also does well as a supporting actress, but doesn't have much screen time to shine. The action choreography is fantastic during most of the fights. The film is also shot beautifully, I like the engaging camerawork. The music was good for the setting, but not very memorable. Gareth Evans writes and directs, and, aside from the antagonists, he does exemplary work.

Overall, Merantau is a great action film. The antagonists made the film feel very cheesy, which caused contradicting vibes during the film, but the action is spectacular and the story, especially the concept of Merantau, is very interesting and engaging.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood. It's your basic martial arts action film, there's maybe only one or two bloody scenes.

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