Well, I guess it’s time I started paying attention to the Indonesian action film industry.
Let me tell you about my man Yuda (newcomer Iko Uwais). He lives in a rural area of Indonesia, making his living picking tomatoes and killing time honing his superior Silat skills. But as all young men must do, it’s time for Yuda to embark on his “Merantau,” a coming-of-age rite of passage. Yuda leaves home, head to Jakarta, and promptly gets caught in the middle of a sex slavery operation.
Little do the female traffickers realize, Yuda is an ass-kicker extraordinaire; a Silat savant who can distribute beatdowns with crowd-pleasing efficiency.
There are few greater pleasures in this reviewing gig than stumbling upon a fantastic, under-the-radar, martial arts import. Merantau is such a discovery; a sublime expedition into practical, wire-free, skill-based fisticuffs that is held back only by some pacing problems.
Things take a while to get rolling. There’s some family time, with Yuda engaging in emotional conversation with his mom and brother, talking about the upcoming trial and…yeah, let’s get the punching on already. I know this sounds like I’m a knuckle-dragging a-hole who’d rather see kicks to the spleen than character development, but the unfortunate truth is that Merantau takes a looooong time to shift into second gear. It isn’t until a third of the runtime has expired before we get the first fight.
However, from that point on, we’re talking mortal combat bliss. Who knows where this guy came from, but Iko Uwais is a gifted throttler of grown men. While he doesn’t quite sport the human special effect talent that Tony Jaa has, he shares the obvious pugilist skill. This may be my first exposure to Silat, but Uwais and the talented action choreographers make it sing.
The fighting style emphasizes a low center of gravity and there are times when Uwais seems to be literally clawing at his opponent’s guts. Strung together, it’s a marvel to watch and writer/director G.H. Evans keeps the lens nice and steady to capture all the excellence. And though the first third of the film may have been devoted to set-up, the final third is all action, capped by an epic, unending, brutal battle in a shipping yard. Primo stuff.
Thank you Magnolia for bringing this sweetness to our shores and thanks for a nice Blu-ray. The 1.78:1 1080p transfer is quite good. Details sometimes appear a bit soft, but I’m going to attribute that to the director’s choice. The colors are boosted, giving the images a bright, almost overstylized effect. It’s neither distracting nor detrimental, just different from the sharper transfers you would typically see in the format. Two 5.1 DTS-HD tracks to choose from: Indonesian and English. As usual, I recommend going with the original language track as the dubbing falls short.
Extras: Deleted scenes, bloopers (which are actually funny), a making-of featurette, a featurette on the bamboo pole stunt, storyboard comparisons, and a weighty video production journal.
Not Guilty. I heart Silat.