Review by: Monkey Fist
SCUM Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I’ve been a fan of action/kung-fu films for a while now and I’m glad that aside from Tony Jaa and Jeeja Yanin, we have another action star in-the-making from this region. Never mind Tony Jaa, here comes Iko Uwais! With Ong Bak, Tony Jaa took Muay Thai to a higher level with his hard-hitting and intricate moves. For Merantau, Iko Uwais has shown us another side of the martial arts Silat we do not really get to witness in films. The fight choreography emphasises a lot on hand-to-hand combat techniques (similar to the fight scenes in the Bourne Identity films). Most of the takedowns are inflicted with punches and grapples, which is a refreshing break from industry norms. The camera-work is also great as it allows us see all of the exchanges. You actually get to witness every single punch, block, and counterpunch. I can only imagine the amount of effort needed to choreograph every one of those scenes and the number of takes to perfect it!
Merantau’s plot is pretty straight-forward. It revolves around a lad named Yuda (Iko Uwais), in his journey of Merantau, a tradition still very much in practice by the young males of Minang tribe in West Sumatra, in which they have to prove themselves worthy to be called a real man by migrating to other place and surviving against all odds in the new place, gaining new experience, new skills that will benefit their hometown or their village. For Yuda’s case, he sets his sights on Jakarta and has plans to set up a Silat school, only for his contact to go missing without a trace. Bumming around while figuring out his next course of action, he chanced upon the siblings of Adit (Yusuf Aulia) and Astri (Sisca Jessica), the latter whom is picked up by gangsters to be part of a sex trafficking ring, and thus begin his discovery of his destiny and calling as the unofficial protector against the weak.
I personally enjoyed the action cinematography. Instead of going for quick edits and cut-scenes, the Director allowed the action sequence to flow naturally and presented in its full glory. I particularly enjoyed moments where a revolving 360 degree view is employed, especially when Yuda has to tackle opponents all round.
Another aspect of the film which I thought was good was the fact that Yuda isn’t perfect. He gets his fair share of failures, as well as shortcomings in his rookie fish-out-of-water situation. While there are moments for drama, the action sequences aren’t forgotten and got interspersed adequately within the first few acts, until the last one which became a non-stop, adrenaline pumping finale that was reminiscence of old Hong Kong action flicks! This is definitely worth a watch for folks who appreciate the genre.