Category Archives: Indonesia

Merantau (2009)

Director: Gareth (“G.H.”) Evans

Well, clearly I haven’t watched anywhere near as many films for this “smaller Asian countries” challenge at ICM, but at least I’m signing off on a fairly good note… since we have a while yet for the third Raid film to appear, this seemed like a good opportunity to finally pull this one off the watchlist. Having invoked the Raid films, of course, I should probably add that I might have enjoyed this a bit more had I not seen those films first, cos I now know what he’s capable of, and, well, he doesn’t quite pull it off here in the same way. That said, there’s nothing particularly wrong with it or anything (well, except for some of the post-synced sound, and I don’t think that was just my copy at fault), it’s just that it was Evans’ first film of this sort and it’s a bit more derivative and not as tightly controlled. The plot revolves around an old Sumatran tradition called merantau, where the young men go on a sort of walkabout (yes, way to mangle not exactly identical cultural references together, Russell) from their rural communities to the big city to prove themselves as adults; this is the situation our hero, Yuda, is in. Things kind of immediately turn to shit when he finds the place he’s supposed to stay in Jakarta doesn’t actually exist, but then a series of encounters leads him to brush up against a human trafficking ring. Like I said, not the most original narrative, but with the sort of action on show, who cares about that? I know bugger all about silat—the Indonesian martial art on display—but it looks amazing on screen, and the action choreography (really, Hollywood needs to make Iko Uwais a big star and I don’t know why they haven’t yet) is incredible at times… there’s a few particularly berserk bits of stunt action where I can’t believe the performers didn’t sustain serious injury, including some falls from heights onto… well, solid ground with nothing to stop them. There are some right “fucking hell” moments throughout. Like I said, not as good as what Evans and Uwais would pull off in The Raid, but a worthy enough bit of action entertainment in its own right nonetheless…

The Raid 2 (2014)

Director: Gareth Evans

You may recall me being sufficiently blown away by The Raid that I knew I had to see both the sequel and Evans’ previous effort Merantau. The latter arrived in the post today, while the sequel was, obviously, tonight’s viewing. And yeah, part 2 does live up to the original, remarkably enough. Did it live up to expectations, though? That I’m not sure of. Certainly I don’t think it was quite as continuously excessive as part 1, although, having said that, that’s actually probably not a bad thing, cos when the violence does erupt it is inclined to be pretty hellacious (notably the prison riot, the choreography of which is quite something), especially once outright gang war erupts in the second half. If this film had hammered the viewer with almost non-stop violence (and I use the word “hammered” advisedly; one female gangster in the film literally takes a couple of hammers to the opposition) of that level, I don’t know if it would’ve been tolerable. Anyway, Evans has a somewhat bigger story this time; coming more or less straight off the end of the first Raid, Rama now finds himself drafted into undercover work, posing as a member of one of the biggest criminal gangs in town in order to bring down the corrupt police from the first film who’ve been working with said gang. There is, however, tension within the gang—the son of the leader getting fed up with the old man’s refusal to give him more power—and, of course, they’re hardly the only gang in town. Complications ensue, exceptionally violent ones at that. The plot is, to be sure, not hugely original, but that’s not the point anyway; if the story is kind of late 80s/early 90s Hong Kong crime thriller, the carnage is something even John Woo or Ringo Lam might’ve hesitated over. Remarkably, despite being just shy of 150 minutes long,The Raid 2 somehow never feels too draggy, it obviously feels long but never too much so. Quite an achievement in many and varied ways, this has now got me eager for the third installment, and kind of furious that it probably won’t be out for another three years at the earliest…

The Raid (2011)

Director: Gareth Evans

If it’s rare for me to actually want a sequel to a film after I’ve seen it, this must be the first time I’ve wanted to see the sequel while I’m only halfway through the first one… I remember when Dredd came out, quite a number of comparisons were drawn to this film, and that’s understandable, especially, when you consider The Raid preceded it onto screens by a year or so. However, Dredd actually completed shooting while this was in pre-production—fun and games in post seem to have held it back from release—so unless Evans got some sort of sneak peek at the other film’s script or something, I think we have to assume a really bizarre case of parallelism. Cos the plot really is practically identical, the criminal-controlled tower block being raided by the forces of law and order, raid going terribly wrong, complications ensuing, etc. There are, of course, some crucial differences, most notably that the forces of law and order turn out to be, shall we say, rather less righteous than the Judges, meaning the whole thing ends on a kind of open, ambiguous note. Plus the film doesn’t have to establish a futuristic setting, so it can get down to business even faster, and that means the violence is of a different quality too cos the weapons are different. And if Dredd was brutal in terms of that violence, The Raid is positively, heart-stoppingly batshit; I can’t remember how many times I said “JESUS FUCK!” during the course of the film, but it was a considerable number, I’m sure. The film is genuinely phenomenal for something that cost only about a million dollars US, which amount doesn’t go too far these days in Hollywood, especially considering the amount of sheer carnage on the screen (there are a few lulls to actually let the plot—such as it is—advance, but otherwise it’s mayhem all the way); our Indonesian  (& Welsh) friends could evidently teach our American friends something there. Quite amazing, and actually worthy of the hype that preceded it in the West. I now clearly need to see Evans’ previous film Merantau plus the sequel to this; apparently the latter is even more OTT, which, given that it’s rated R here but this one is only MA, is something I look forward to…