Today I watched a movie on Netflix Instant Streaming that I’ve heard about for some while called “Merantau”. It’s an Indonesian Martial Arts Film with action similar to something like “Ong-Bak” or “Dynamite Warrior” but with a level of acting and a really emotional plot that I don’t usually see in Martial Arts film. The only time I remember seeing that was in the incredible Chinese Martial Arts Film “IP Man” but even that played very heavy handedly almost like a mellow drama. “Merantau” is a film that’s a perfect mix of two elements that shouldn’t really work together yet somehow they do.
“Merantau” is a film about a young man named Yuda from Minangkabau who moves into the city for a spiritual and physical journey called a “Merantau” to live and try to make it completely on his own, it’s a rite of passage into becoming a man. His mother tells him he doesn’t have to but he does anyway and assures her everything will be ok. On the first night in the city he’s forced to sleep in an industrial steel tube. The next morning while eating his wallet is stolen by a kid named Adit. While chasing Adit down, they both run into a pole dancer named Astri (Adit’s sister) who is being attacked by her boss Johni. Yuda saves the day by defending the two. They run into each other again as Astri is kidnapped by two human traffickers named Ratger and Luc who are brothers. Only Yuda can save her so he spends the rest of the film tracking her down much like Liam Neeson in Taken.
Though the overall plot has been done to death it’s the little details that make this Film really original, at least for a martial arts film, are the little details. The film is shot incredibly well making great use of the dark scenery and bright city lights. It’s also shot incredibly well during the action scenes making sure you see every hit which shows off the incredible stunts and incredibly brave actors involved in these brutal fights. Much of the beginning and middle almost seems like an indie drama and it really works when its mixed in with scenes of action that almost seem like a reward in between the plot and character development. The actors all do an incredible job as well. Iko Uwais as the hero Yuda does an amazing job making a transition from a young normal man who just wants to make his family proud to becoming a hero that will stay with you for some time. Mads Koudal and Laurent Buson play the two villains and also do a great job though I’m not sure what accent they were doing, that aside they’re both menacing yet relatable in how they want to protect each other due to their bond as brothers and both becoming terrifyingly vicious in the climax of the film. The film is full of emotional turns where you have to wonder, even if it’s the right thing to do, is it really worth it? Full of aspects of Heroism, Revenge, Rage and even Sacrifice this film was able to captivate me not only visually but emotionally as well. Another thing that adds to all the emotional depth is the incredible soundtrack that’s a mix of Orchestra and Electronica but then settles down with some really gorgeous songs comprising of bass guitar riffs and subtle drums.
Overall this is a very surprising film in the best way, I knew it was going to be good but I didn’t think I was going to love it as much as I did. If you’re looking for an incredible action film with some great drama involved then give this a watch. Or if you’re looking for a great drama with some really incredible action scenes this is also the movie for you. Basically what I’m trying to say is that no matter what you’re looking for this is a movie that I think has to be seen. I tip my hat off to director Gareth Evans and everyone else involved. I look forward to his film that was in limited release last year called “The Raid” that will soon be in wide release via streaming and a few more theatrical releases.
“Merentau” gets a perfect score of 4 stars.
– The Indie Hipster Film Critic