Blu-ray Review: Merantau [MA15]

Dir: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Sisca Jessica, Christine Hakim, Mads Koudal, Yusuf Aulia, Alex Abbad, Yayan Ruhian

The Film: After I had first heard about The Raid, my good friend Stephen told me about the director’s previous film Merantau. I had seen a few extremely impressive clips after that, and before seeing The Raid I really wanted to see this. But it wasn’t yet available in my native land, so I saw The Raid first. Now needless to say The Raid is one of my top films of 2012, and as a hardcore action and martial arts film fan it catered to my every need. With that making a splash, Merantau is now available on DVD and Blu-ray in Australia and I have finally seen the film. It is a very different film from The Raid, however it is just as good and I think some people may even prefer this one. Both films really are extraordinary pieces of cinema, and extremely innovative for the action and martial arts genre.

Merantau was the first film in many years produced in Indonesia and it brought forth their martial arts Pencat Silat. That is a key component in this film, and I think after seeing this film many people will certainly want to know more (seek out Gareth Evan’s documentary Pencat Silat: The Martial Arts of Indonesia for more). The story here is about the ancient rite of passage known as ‘merantau’, which is from native Sumatra. The rite of passage is where a young boy must leave his family and town and start a fresh life in the big city, make a living for himself and become a man. Which leads us to our main character of Yuda (Iko Uwais also star of The Raid), who is leaving his family to take part in his merantau to the big city of Jakarta, where he wants to start his own silat school for children. Once he arrives in Jakarta a series of events leads him to meeting a young woman Astri (Sisca Jessica). He helps out her but her situation is much more dire than we first expect and Yuda is thrown into the mix with a bunch of local gangsters who run a prostitution ring.

The film’s heart is on its central story of the merantau, Yuda’s journey as well as his character, but not only that, it also tells Astri’s story through his. Yuda is a very honest and honourable person, and his Jakarta journey really starts when he sees Johni (Alex Abbad) the owner of a strip club, hit Astri and he simply cannot stand to see this violence being placed against a woman. It is this event that really kick starts things, and we learn who Yuda is as does his character. He has a natural need to want to help others, even if he himself has nothing. He stops at nothing to help Astri and her brother Adit (Yusuf Aulia), even if it means having to fight a group of thugs. Which leads me to the action portion of the film, which by the way is simply phenomenal. The talents on display here are just jaw dropping, and the choreography head lined by Yayan Ruhian (he plays Eric here and he played the memorable Mad Dog in The Raid) is flawless. The action and the fighting scenes flow really well, and it delivers them in very spectacular ways. It reminds me of Tony Jaa’s efforts with Ong Bak and The Protector, while those highlight Thailand and traditions there; Merantau does the same for Indonesia with the astonishing action flare.

Gareth Evans is currently on the top of my list of the most exciting new directors; this man has a great eye and knows how to craft this genre. As I had stated with my review of The Raid, that film brought back memories of Bruce Lee and how he cleverly crafted Way Of The Dragon, allowing audiences to actually see the action and have an interesting main character. Merantau did much the same, and like Lee, Evans understands how to film martial arts. We want to see what is happening, and we see and feel every part of it. Evans also gives us a great lead character, someone with morals and wants to do what is right, which for me rang very true with Lee’s character in Way Of The Dragon. Bruce Lee was ahead of his time with what he was doing with his films, and Gareth Evans is certainly bringing us something fresh and exciting and is just as innovative as Lee was.

It doesn’t stop there though, Evans and crew cast this film perfectly and got some fantastic performances, and for some of them this was their first film. Iko Uwais is the heart of this film, the man is not only one of the most stunning martial artists of today but he is a damn fine actor. Everything about him is convincing, and a lot of this comes through his eyes and his facial expressions. I felt what he felt, and he gives a strong and memorable performance. Christine Hakim as Wulan the mother of Yuda has a smaller role but she brought the emotion and gave her character a lot of heart. Yayan Ruhian was great, this role was quite different than that of Mad Dog from The Raid, and it shows that he has a strong range and needs to be in more films. Sisca Jessica was really strong here, her character was the victim here and she played it just right. If even the smallest part about her performance was off, the motivation of Yuda towards helping her wouldn’t have hit so hard.

I could easily go on and on about Merantau, this really is a fantastic film. It looks amazing, the cinematography was stunning and it contains some amazing sequences. Merantau is a film that has a huge appeal, not just for genre fans but for everyone. I would gladly play this film for my mother or my father; there is so much to get out of it. Do yourself a favour and grab this film, you won’t regret it. If The Raid blew you away, you’ll love Merantau.

The Australian DVD 
Audio/Video: The video is presented in 1.78.1 widescreen 1080p . Audio is presented with DTS HD Master Audio – Indonesian Language and LPCM 2.0 Indonesian Language. It contains clearly legible English subtitles.

The picture and audio are top notch, I was really impressed with this transfer, it was a very crisp picture and the audio was very clear.

Extras:
* Making of Merantau
* Production Blog
* Deleted Scenes
* Fight Scene Comparison
* That Bamboo Stunt
* Bloopers
* Theatrical Trailer

The making of feature is really well done, and it is a bit more in-depth than most. The production blog is very detailed and there is a lot on offer, this is well worth a look. The deleted scenes do offer some more insight, definitely check them out. The fight scene comparison is a fun addition, as is the bamboo stunt, it is interesting to see how these things get done. The blooper reel is worth watching for a laugh, and overall this is a fantastic offering.

Overall Rating

Thanks to Ben from MadMan for his support.

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