Friday, January 8, 2010




It’s being touted as the “Biggest Indonesian Action Movie of the Year”.

Not Wushu, not Muay Thai but the
Silat martial arts.

Does it live up to this claim?

Way back in 2005, in Bangkok, I attended the preview of the MUAY THAIblockbuster TOM YUM GOONG starring TONY JAA.

I vividly recalled this scene where a dishevelled KHUN JAA rushed into a building in Australia and screamed frenziedly “Where the hell is my elephant? Where is my elephant?”

The audience broke into absolute hysterics and some even shouted “Boo!”

That’s the name of the game.

Yeah, we all that TONY JAA can fight, but act he can’t.

Home-bred blockbuster or not, TOM YUM GOONG’s Thai box office takings may be phenomenal, given a generous film budget allocation of over 200 million Thai bahts, but it also earned scathing reviews.

TOM YUM GOONG has a lame plot. It’s focuses on a stolen elephant and for that reason,TONY JAA goes all the way to Sydney to rescue his pet. And in doing so, he must face his opponents one by one, back-to-back and takes them all to task.

Now, years later MERANTAU WARRIOR a martial arts venture from INDONESIA,dogged closely on the footstep of TOM YUM KUNG, but tailing at a much lesser pace, in terms of context, budget and experience.

Duplication or pure coincidence?

The hero is IKO UWAIS who bears an uncanny resemblance to TONY JAA, but this Indonesian actor has a fresher face, better complexion, and an a more amiable persona.

MERANTAU WARRIOR is helmed by director GARETH EVANS and it’s his second feature so far and his first venturing into the foray of martial arts genre.

It’s a commendable effort but not without flaws.

GARETH EVANS’s attention to details is admirable, but don’t you think that when every single piece of attire worn by the actors seems to be so meticulously pressed and clean in very fight scene or otherwise – this becomes unreal?

That when the rural settings are so darn neat and painstakingly arranged, the film reeks more like an elongated television commercial instead?

MERANTAU refers to a century old rite-of-passage where every young man leaves the comfort of his village and trudges to the city to “make good” as our leading man IKO UWAIS does here.

Endless problems ensue when he attempts to save a damsel-in-distress from being a pawn in human trafficking.

Thereafter there’s plenty of running, jumping, kicking and acrobatics in dark alleyways and congested side streets ….

Mind you, the plot is paper thin as the bone-crunching action triumphs over story and character development.

The acting in some parts is laughable with a banal script, and the delivery is a tad off putting, to put it mildly.

Yeah, there are some impressive fight scenes more like a watered down version ofTOM YUM GOONG where the hero faces a multi-tier layer of obstacles to confront his opponents, with a dash of caucasian rogues thrown in for good measure.

You either love or loathe MERANTAU WARRIOR.

For me, I have mixed feelings.

It’s often easy to “dress” a film down, bludgeon it to death, but when you are behind that camera, it is a totally different story.

We have to look at the film told through the director’s eyes.

Like everything else, MERANTAU WARRIOR deserves a second chance.

There has always been a deluge of kung fu, chinese wushu and muay thai films that has been done to death.

A subject on the SILAT martial arts can break new grounds.

Therefore, please go and check MERANTAU WARRIOR out.

This Review is specially written for

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