Could somebody call Tony Jaa and let him know that his Indonesian replacement has arrived?
Iko Uwais, an up-and-comer Indonesian martial arts star blasts onto the screen with a humble look, a calm gait and an unstoppable kick, in his first widely publicized film, Merantau.
The story in Merantau is not much different from the majority of martial arts films, with the typical ‘martial arts master goes to the city, not looking for trouble, finds it and then saves the girl, rescues the kid.’ It’s strange that these martial arts masters are never looking for trouble, but they certainly always somehow find it.
The resemblance between Iko Uwais and Tony Jaa in his first films such as Ong Bak, and The Protector is uncanny, although the fights in Merantau display a more developed fighting style in comparison to Tony Jaa’s continuous use and reuse of the famed elbow to the head move. It’s effective, we’ll give him that.
The story essentially revolves around the Yuda (Iko Uwais) and a pair of orphans who are effectively under the control of a pimp who forces them to steal money and perform in order to earn money for him. The older of the two orphans is a good looking woman named Astri (Sisca Jessica), whom he originally saves from her pimp who is beating her around when he stumbles into the alley, after her little ‘brother’ stole his wallet. His involvement in their dispute gets her fired and he gets dragged into a world of crime and must fight his way out to save Astri and her little brother.
The film feels and flows much like a typical Tony Jaa film albeit with a slightly lower budget. Two of the main bad guys played by Laurent Buson (of France) and Mads Koudal (of Denmark) who run the human trafficking ring appear to be emulating American accents but fail horribly. The fact that the director (Gareth Evans) Is Welsh born and should have noticed the strange English accents seems to make the director appear sloppy. This is likely quite unnoticeable for the primary audience (Indonesians), however for a native speaker these atrocious accents can be quite distracting. The bad guys are also lacking slightly in their acting skills, but short appearances in the film help to take the attention off of that aspect of the film.
Overall, it isn’t a bad film, however there are some elements which can be distracting and the special effects are lacking in some areas. With that said, the films emotive elements towards the end are actually quite powerful and seem to save the film just in time.