MERANTAU: Film screening at NYAFF 2010

merantau

The screening of Merantau at the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival was much anticipated by…me! For one, it was the last day of the festival and secondly, I was yearning for a good old thrashing & bashing of a martial arts movie after watching a few dramatic films like Golden Slumber & Castaway on the Moon! This would of counter balanced or perhaps teetered me towards the scale of action packed goodness that I usually crave for. However, I was severely let down at first glance, but the movie slowly warmed up to to the task at hand when the fists started to fly! I think I was expecting way too much from this film as flashes of Tony Jaa & “Ong Bak”, the Thai warrior crossed my mind. The story was much in the line of Ong Bak, a young country boy who goes out in the big bad city to experience life, but unfortunately learns that a cruel & harsh world in the urban jungle would exist. Merantau was an Indonesian poormans version of Ong Bak & a homeless mans version of “Kiss of the Dragon” from Jet li. The story & plot was purely one dimensional and the acting was suspect in my opinion. The story & cast however, did have an innocent charm & appeal to them, though. Merantau was about a teenage boy played by Iko Uwais from the rural area of Indonesia who takes a journey or Merantau into the city life of Jakarta to teach his martial art style of Silat ,but runs into misfortunes with local pimps, eurotrash, slaves destined for prostitution, & being homeless. The most refreshing part of this film lies in the raw action & fighting choreography! Some of the stunts & fight sequences displayed in this movie ranged from being downright furious to outright amazing! The stunts & raw footage of Merantau got me real excited which reminded me of some of the early works of Hong Kong action when actors & stuntmen/women would perform amazing acts of physical glory to make the scenes look realistic! The fight scene in the elevator, action sequences with the gang in the club, the sequence on the pedestrian bridge, & the fight with the Harry Potter lookalikes at the end where pretty enthralling! The cinematography was also something to behold! It was also a privilege for me to see the Indonesian fighting art of Pencak Silat onscreen for the 1st time! That alone was worth the price of admission in my mind! Silat movements seemed to involve low center of gravity stances & movements often involving claw like strikes, grabs, elbows, & throws! Moving side to side to parry & deflect blows seem to be a trademark of their art. Handling & defending against knives looks to be another specialialty in Silat as well! Overall, I wasn’t too thrilled with the vanilla story & acting in the film, but the stunts, fight sequences, & the display of Pencak Silat was refreshing. This was only the 2nd martial art movie from Indonesia in quite a number of years so this is promising start! The main actor of the film didn’t look too convincing as an academy award winner, but his unique fighting skills onscreen were something to behold! Acting can be learned right? From the looks of the conclusion of the film, Merantau 2 wouldn’t be too far fetched!

–Mr. C

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