"I'll just get my gear."

Posts Tagged ‘Indonesia’

Blind Warrior

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

Previously on Vern Tries To Learn About Indonesian Super Heroes:

The 2019 film GUNDALA caused me to read up a little bit on the other Indonesian comic book characters who will be part of an MCU-inspired franchise called the Bumilangit Cinematic Universe. It turned out some of them had been in movies before, and I was able to find THE DEVIL’S SWORD, about a character named Mandala who will be played by Joe Taslim in the BCU.

The character that sounded coolest, though, was Barda Mandrawata, The Blind Man From the Ghost Cave, a.k.a. Si Buta (“The Blind” or “The Blind Man”). I was intrigued partly because he’s a warrior who poked out his own eyes to learn how to defeat his blind enemy, partly because he has a pet monkey, and partly because his new movie is to be written and directed by Timo Tjahjanto (HEADSHOT, THE NIGHT COMES FOR US).

I was able to find two ’80s movies about Si Buta. The first was THE WARRIOR AND THE BLIND SWORDSMAN (1983), in which the character crosses over into part 2 of a trilogy starring THE DEVIL’S SWORD’s Barry Prima as a different character. The blind swordsman was cool looking, but I didn’t get very into the story and didn’t have enough to say about it to write a review. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Devil’s Sword

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

A few weeks ago I reviewed a 2019 movie I was really excited about called GUNDALA. It’s a pretty great Indonesian martial arts movie directed by Joko Anwar, based on a comic book (also Indonesian) that started in the ‘60s, and it’s supposed to launch an MCU-inspired movie franchise called the Bumilangit Cinematic Universe.

When I read up on the BCU for that review I learned a little bit about the other characters they’ll be making movies about, and some of them have already appeared in movies. IMDb listings of Indonesian films are not very complete, but based on my research I think there’s a 1981 version of GUNDALA; a 1954 version of SRI ASIH; seven (give or take a few erroneous double listings) about Barda Mandrawata – The Blind Man From the Ghost Cave, an incredible sounding character whose new movie is to be directed by Timo Tjahjanto (THE NIGHT COMES FOR US); and three about a wandering warrior named Mandala.

Out of all of those titles I could only locate three, and the first I’ve gotten my hands on is THE DEVIL’S SWORD (1984) starring Barry Prima as Mandala. This character is supposed to be played by Joe Taslim (THE RAID) in the BCU’s MANDALA: THE DEVIL’S SWORD, and if that’s like a slicker, more modern version of this, I can’t wait. This version is directed by Ratno Timoer (who both directed and starred in some of those Barda Mandrawata movies) and it’s kind of a cross between a CONAN THE BARBARIAN wannabe and a low budget kung fu movie (complete with wirework), plus some sexploitation thrown in for flavoring.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Gundala

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

I gotta admit, I barely knew Indonesian cinema existed until I saw MERANTAU and THE RAID. We all loved THE RAID and THE RAID 2 and then THE NIGHT COMES FOR US came along and that was arguably even more impressive. It was directed by Timo Tjahjanto, who’d already done another Iko Uwais martial arts movie I loved called HEADSHOT with his long-time collaborator Kimo Stamboel. They also did a horror one called KILLERS that I had to turn off in the opening scene because it was too much for me at the time. Some day I’m gonna get up the guts to go back. These days Stamboel has a heavily hyped horror movie called THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC, written by Joko Anwar. Anwar is the guy who directed SATAN’S SLAVES (which I enjoyed) and IMPETIGORE (which I haven’t seen yet but it was on some best of the year lists).

So clearly there are healthy action and horror scenes over there, and those are my primary interests. But did you know they also have a local answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The aforementioned Anwar wrote and directed the 2019 film GUNDALA, based on an Indonesian comic book character created in 1969, and will be overseeing a series called the Bumilangit Cinematic Universe (BCU), with seven more films planned in Volume 1.

I knew there’d be something interesting about an Indonesian take on modern super hero movies, but once again I was caught off guard because you guys, this movie is really good. It certainly takes some inspiration from the Marvel films, and there’s a costumed hero with some powers and some colorful super villains, but mostly it’s a legit martial arts movie with lots of really well directed fights. And it’s interesting to see how a character like this compares and contrasts to the ones that have caught on here. The main difference is that his life has been way harder than any of our guys. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Night Comes For Us

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

THE NIGHT COMES FOR US is another outstanding gauntlet of gory martial arts violence and honor among killers from Timo Tjahjanto, writer-director of the excellent HEADSHOT. Once again the action is choreographed by Iko Uwais (star of THE RAID), and he’s in it and he’s great, but Joe Taslim gets to play the lead this time. Taslim played Jaka in THE RAID and was also in the best FAST & FURIOUS movie (FURIOUS 6) but he doesn’t seem to get noticed like Iko and Yayan. Or at least he didn’t get to be eaten by a monster in THE FORCE AWAKENS with them. So every time I read his name I think of it to the tune of this:

Taslim’s character Ito is one of the “Six Seas,” elite enforcers for the Triads who from the sounds of it are kinda like the Seal Team Six of international crime. For his job he has to be ridiculously skilled and completely heartless, but one day during a routine massacre-of-entire-village he doesn’t feel like killing the last survivor, a little girl named Reina (Asha Kenyeri Bermudez). Instead he guns down his own team and takes off to hide the kid in Jakarta. And sure, this doesn’t erase all the people he’s killed in his three years on the job, but it’s like when the Grinch’s heart grows at the end of his story. Let’s give the man credit for changing. (read the rest of this shit…)

Headshot

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

We all know Iko Uwais as the star of THE RAID [REDEMPTION] and THE RAID 2. Those movies showcase him as a likable hero and incredible martial artist, but they’re also a strong collaboration with co-star/co-choreographer Yayan Ruhian and director Gareth Evans. Having also loved their earlier film MERANTAU I want to see that team keep working together as long as possible. Uwais without the others – as is the case with the 2016 film HEADSHOT – is still exciting, so I was frustrated that I couldn’t find it in theaters or on-demand when it came out. But for some reason by the time it finally came to video I sort of took my time getting around to it.

Big mistake! HEADSHOT is fantastic, a reminder to never underestimate Uwais as a performer or choreographer. The directors are Kimo Stamboel & Timo Tjahjanto, also known as the Mo Brothers. They’re known more for horror than for action, having done a segment of the anthology TAKUT: FACES OF FEAR (2008), a feature called MACABRE (2009), and (with Evans) a segment of V/H/S/2 (2013). I tried watching their serial killer movie KILLERS (2014) and it seemed very well made, but the opening was legitimately disturbing and I think I was going through something and I decided I didn’t need it in my life at that time and turned it off. That doesn’t happen to me often! (read the rest of this shit…)

The Look of Silence

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

tn_lookofsilenceI’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, THE ACT OF KILLING was, unexpectedly, one of the best movies I’d ever seen. And you might’ve said then, and might say now, “Okay, yeah, I heard I should see that, but did you say it was a documentary about genocide in Indonesia, and how the people that did it are still in power and treated as heroes and talk openly about what they did as if it’s something to brag about?”

Yeah, okay, when you put it that way it sounds like not a good thing to watch on a Friday night. But sometimes it’s good to learn about the bad things in this world, and there are worse ways to do that than watching an absolutely fascinating, gorgeously shot film that works as an expose, a parable about the power of cinema, and a dark, sick, you-would-be-buckled-over-laughing-if-it-wasn’t-such-a-nightmare joke about the mundanity of evil. Parts of it play like a Christopher Guest mockumentary, but it’s real footage of actual war criminals trying to make a weird art movie glorifying their own atrocities.

Director Joshua Oppenheimer’s followup is a companion piece that’s less surreal, more intimate, but similarly profound. He continues on the same topic, but instead of focusing on the perpetrators he goes back to his original idea of following one of the survivors. To me that sounds like it would lose the unique hang-out-in-the-living-room-of-evil, give-them-enough-rope-to-hang-themselves power of the first movie, but it ends up being just as impressive because of the amazing person they focus on. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lady Dragon 2

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

tn_ladydragon2In LADY DRAGON 2, Cynthia Rothrock de-prises her role as Kathy Galagher, ex-CIA underground fighter out to avenge the death of her also-a-CIA-agent husband. This time she plays Susan “The Golden Angel” Morgan, who in the opening scene defends her professional (i.e. not underground) competitive karate title in the presence of her very much not dead yet husband and famous soccer player Sonny (George Rudy). But then later her husband gets murdered and she has to avenge it.

Meanwhile, criminal maniac Diego (Billy Drago, DELTA FORCE 2, MARTIAL LAW II) and his two flunkies (Sam FLASH GORDON Jones and Greg Stuart [QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER]) are stealing diamonds from the mafia, and then staying in the same hotel as Susan and Sonny. Somehow sensing that Sonny’s fame as an international soccer star will get him brushed through customs without much more than a glance, they stash the stolen loot in his luggage and follow him to Jakarta. But when they go to reclaim the diamonds they’re gone.

Before we move on, let me just say that they call it soccer throughout the movie, they don’t say football, so I don’t have to say it either. Those are the rules. I also say shit instead of shite. It’s how I was raised. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lady Dragon

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

tn_ladydragonIn the opening of LADY DRAGON, Kathy Galagher (Cynthia Rothrock) arrives late to her underground fight. The crowd goes silent from cheering on her opponent when she enters in silhouette, a mysterious figure of intimidation in a pointy druid hood, carrying a gym bag, her footsteps echoing like Walker in POINT BLANK. She stands with her back to the camera as she pulls off the hood, then spins around to reveal her face.

It seems like we’re supposed to spit out our Pepsi when we see that it’s a girl. What, did they not know we knew we were renting a Cynthia Rothrock vehicle?

Director/story-provider David Worth (this was his followup to KICKBOXER) gives her lots of cool entrances like that and different outfits, sometimes masculine (a black leisure suit), sometimes the opposite (lots of glittery dresses). She’s trying to track the white arms dealer in Indonesia who killed her CIA agent husband. We learn all this only after special guest star Robert Ginty (THE EXTERMINATOR), who was watching her fight from behind shades and a cigarette, finds her at a bar and tries to bring her back into “the Company.” She says no and tells him to “have a nice day.” He says “Yeah, you too.” (read the rest of this shit…)

The Raid 2

Monday, April 14th, 2014

tn_raid2THE RAID 2 has alot of what made THE RAID an instant classic:

1. Incredible fight performances and choreography by Iko Uwais (returning as silat-practicing rookie cop Rama, now undercover as “Yuda” [weirdly that was also his name in MERANTAU]), Yayan Ruhian (as a new character named Koso, since his great villain character Mad Dog eventually gave in and died) and a whole bunch of other great martial artists.

2. Action scenes crammed with fast, unrelenting brutality including many, many, many stabbings, headshots, bodyparts smashed through walls, slit throats, broken bones, etc.

But there’s one thing that’s really different:

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Act of Killing

Friday, January 17th, 2014

tn_actofkillingBTISLMan, I don’t know how long this will last, but when I finished watching THE ACT OF KILLING I had a strong feeling that not only did that have to be the best movie I saw from 2013, it might be one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s an amazing, one-of-a-kind documentary that achieves a whole bunch of things: it shows me fascinating, outside-of-my-experience human beings in crazy situations; it’s a stunning visual portrait of places and people in Indonesia; it is deeply upsetting and shocking and yet at times horribly, uncomfortably funny; it tells my ignorant American ass a few things about a major human tragedy I never heard of but also, it sounds like, helped the people of Indonesia start to address a deliberately whitewashed part of their history. When you hear the subject it sounds like a message movie, but aside from that it has what I think is always more important in a documentary: it captures some incredible human moments that you can’t believe you’re actually seeing, including a monstrous war criminal coming to realizations about what he did.

It accomplishes this all without a single talking head, no narration and very little explanatory text. It plunges you into this world of war criminals and their supporters who are amazingly comfortable with director Joshua Oppenheimer (and un-named Indonesian co-director – at least half of the names on the credits are listed as “ANONYMOUS”). Oppenheimer is barely seen or heard but sometimes they address him by name like a trusted friend. (read the rest of this shit…)