×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Merantau

Pic introduces a potential star in Iko Uwais, but only fitfully works as an action movie.

With:
With: Iko Uwais, Sisca Jessica,Yusuf Aulia, Mads Koudal, Laurent Buson, Alex Abbad, Yayan Ruhian, Donny Alamsyah, Christine Hakim, Ratna Galih, Edwel Datuk Rajo Gampo Alam.

Announcing itself as the first Indonesian martial-artser in 15 years, “Merantau” introduces a potential star in 26-year-old Iko Uwais, but only fitfully works as an action movie. A kind of softer, more metrosexual version of Thailand’s Tony Jaa, Uwais has the moves and looks to carve a career beyond the archipelago, but Welsh-born writer-director G.H. Evans can’t make up his mind whether he’s making a respectful study of Indonesian culture or a trail-blazing chopsocky. Not kinetic enough to appeal to the usual action outlets, this ranks as an interesting but only half-formed experiment.

In its original, extremely plodding 137-minute version, the film world-preemed as the closer at South Korea’s PiFan fest in July and subsequently did OK on release in Indonesia in early August. Version reviewed here is Evans’ 111-minute international cut (for all markets outside Indonesia), which has since played some other fantasy fests. Pic still needs another 15 minutes taken out to stand a real chance in offshore markets.

In short order, Yuda finds himself homeless in the big city and rescuing young bar dancer Astri (cute Sisca Jessica) from her boss, Johni (Alex Abbad). Yuda takes her and her pickpocket baby brother, Adit (Yusuf Aulia), under his wing, and when Johni kidnaps Astri to service a psycho Western client, Ratger (Mads Koudal), Yuda springs into full action-hero mode.

Apart from a few brief demos, the first full-fledged action setpiece comes an hour into the movie — 90 minutes in the leisurely domestic version — and it’s a corker of a rooftop/scaffolding chase that finally, but only briefly, sets the pic alight. Subsequent 50 minutes feature an exciting mano a mano in an elevator, and an OK docklands finale with Ratger and his brother (martial artist Laurent Buson), but that’s about it.

For a journey that’s announced as “the ultimate test of the physical and spiritual,” there’s not enough backgrounding of Yuda or sustained physical oomph to fulfill the pic’s genre remit. Finale at least manages to spring one major surprise, which returns the pic briefly to Yuda’s village.

Danish thesp Koudal, who was in Evans’ stygian low-budget debut, “Footsteps,” set in the world of snuff filmmaking, is good as the seriously nasty villain. But the most interesting character in terms of moral conflict is Ruhian’s Eric, who in the international cut has been robbed of a gritty fight scene that properly set up his character.

Tech package, sourced on P2 DV, is good-looking, with clean daytime and moody night work by Yank d.p. Matt Flannery, who also shot “Footsteps.”

Merantau

Indonesia

Production: A Merantau Films production. (International sales: Golden Network Asia, Hong Kong.) Produced by Ario Sagantoro. Executive producer, Rangga Maya Barack-Evans. Directed, written by G.H. Evans.

Crew: Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Matt Flannery, Dimas Imam Subhono; editor, Evans; music, Fajar Yuskemal Tamin, Aria Prayogi; art director, Tomy D. Setyanto; sound (Dolby Digital), Satrio Budiyono; action director, Evans; martial arts choreographers, Edwel Datuk Rajo Gampo Alam, Team Silat Harimau, Iko Uwais; assistant director, Yuhdianto Purwana. Reviewed on DVD, London, Nov. 6, 2009. (Also in PiFan; Fantastic Fest, Austin; Sitges, Hawaii film festivals.) Running time: 111 MIN. Indonesian, English dialogue.

With: With: Iko Uwais, Sisca Jessica,Yusuf Aulia, Mads Koudal, Laurent Buson, Alex Abbad, Yayan Ruhian, Donny Alamsyah, Christine Hakim, Ratna Galih, Edwel Datuk Rajo Gampo Alam.

More Film

  • Vice Christian Bale Sam Rockwell Playback

    Berlin Adds 'Vice,' New Films by Zhang Yimou and Andre Techine to Official Lineup

    Five new titles, including the latest films from Zhang Yimou and Andre Techine, have joined the competition program at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. Adam McKay’s “Vice” will screen out of competition, as will Alan Elliott’s documentary “Amazing Grace.” “Vice” has already won a Golden Globe for star Christian Bale’s portrayal of former U.S. Vice President [...]

  • Picture Tree Adds ‘Cold Feet’ to

    Picture Tree Adds ‘Cold Feet’ to Berlin Market Lineup (EXCLUSIVE)

    Picture Tree Intl. has added German romantic comedy “Cold Feet” (Kalte Füsse) to its market lineup at the Berlin Film Festival, where the sales agent will screen the film as a market premiere. Sony Pictures released the pic, directed Wolfgang Groos, in Germany on Thursday, and it garnered 100,000 admissions over its opening weekend. “Cold [...]

  • Neil Burger

    'Upside' Director Neil Burger Sets Sci-Fi 'Voyagers' as Next Project

    “The Upside” director Neil Burger is set to direct sci-fi thriller “Voyagers” as his next project. The film will be fully financed and co-produced by Stuart Ford’s AGC Studios, and produced by Burger’s Nota Bene Productions and Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road Films. AGC also handles international sales on the new film. Written and directed by [...]

  • Berlin: M-Appeal Acquires Panorama Title ‘Greta’

    M-Appeal Acquires Berlin Panorama Title ‘Greta’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    M-Appeal has acquired world sales rights to “Greta,” the feature debut of Brazil’s Armando Praça which will world premiere in this year’s Berlinale Panorama section. The Berlin-based film industry has also dropped an international trailer, to which Variety has had exclusive access. Produced by Carnaval Filmes, whose credit include major titles by Marcelo Gomes, one [...]

  • Kew Media Boards Michael Jackson Documentary

    Kew Media Boards Michael Jackson Documentary 'Leaving Neverland' for International

    Kew Media Distribution has boarded controversial Michael Jackson sex-abuse documentary “Leaving Neverland” ahead of its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Kew Media has taken international distribution rights (excluding U.K. and U.S.) to the two-part documentary, which is a co-production of HBO and British broadcaster Channel 4. Directed by BAFTA-winner Dan Reed, “Leaving [...]

  • Nordic Film Market: New Pálmason, Hákonarson,

    Nordic Film Market Selects Latest Palmason, Hakonarson, Hafstrom, Ganslandt

    The 20th Nordic Film Market in Göteborg, unspooling Jan. 31-Feb 3, will showcase 16 works in progress including Hlynur Pálmason’s “A White, White Day”, Grímur Hákonarson’s “The County”, Mikael Håfström’s “The Perfect Patient” and Jesper Ganslandt’s “438 Days.” Iceland is well represented this year with top directors and festival darlings Pálmason (“Winter Brothers”), Hákonarson (“Rams”) [...]

  • 'All These Small Moments' Review

    Film Review: 'All These Small Moments'

    The magic of writer-director Melissa B. Miller Costanzo’s “All These Small Moments” can be found within the intimacy of the scenarios, the authenticity of her earnest characterizations, and the accessibility of the actors’ honest performances. In her deftly polished directorial debut, Costanzo dovetails the primary story about a teen’s coming of age with a secondary [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content