Archive for Silat

Iko Uwais returns in Headshot Teaser!

Posted in Iko Uwais, Sunny Pang with tags , on September 7, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

So what’s Iko’s answer to The Raid 2? How about Headshot, which is not directed by Gareth Evans, but looks the hell as if it were. The film is showing at TIFF this year, and Entertainment Weekly has the teaser and synopsis:

The film finds Uwais playing a nameless man who wakes up in a hospital with severe head trauma, not knowing who he is or what happened to him. Assisted by a student doctor Ailin (Chelsea Islan), who nicknames him “Ishmael” after the character in Moby Dick, he recovers and tries to regain his memory. But Ishmael’s past catches up to him, in the form of Lee (Sunny Pang), a drug lord and gang boss whose tentacles reach deep into the police and the penal system. When Ailin is kidnapped and Ishmael sets out to get her back, he finds himself pitted against an array of skilled fighters who may have been his former colleagues.

Yes, yes yes. This looks like a winner, folks! Iko is gonna be four for four (Man of Tai Chi doesn’t count)!  Also starring Sunny Pang and Julie Estelle! This can’t get here fast enough!

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What’s that? Asskickery you want? The Raid 2: Berandal Teaser is here!

Posted in Iko Uwais, Uncategorized, Yayan Ruhian with tags , on November 6, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Thanks to the good folks at Twitch ( as it should be, since Todd Brown is a Producer on the film) we have our first look at The Raid 2: Berandal, and frankly it looks great.This is truly a teaser of the best kind, and refuses to give away too much for now. The sight of Iko Uwais punching a goddamn brick wall at rapid fire speed while images of the other various characters  including Hammer Girl and Yayan Ruhian as a new character pass by just makes me salivate for the final product. I really wish Roger Ebert was still around. Maybe he and I could’ve gotten into another tiny bit of back and forth as we did for the previous film.

Anyway, watch this thing about a thousand times below! 2014 can’t come fast enough…

Kiai-Kick! Op/Ed: Where Did The Energy Go?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 19, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

By Santanu Rahman

 

Late 80’s and 90’s Hong Kong Kung-Fu films – that’s where it’s at, for me. The martial arts choreography was innovative, exciting, fast paced, hard hitting, and intense. Even the B-rate movies had decent choreography! I don’t even mind the undercranking technique (speeding up the film ever so slightly and tastefully) used frequently in those times, it actually enhanced the action.

They were constantly pushing the boundaries, and basically trying to “out-stunt” each other.

Today, while Hong Kong’s film industry still thrives, and produces big budget martial arts films, it feels like a lot of that energy and spirit has left them and gone to other countries.

So allow me to give a listing, by country and films, who has inherited this energy:

THAILAND

With Ong Bak 1, 2, and 3, Chocolate, The Protector, and Bangkok Knockout, the Thai film industry are proving themselves as up and coming leaders in the martial arts cinema genre. Tony Jaa has tremendous ability and star power. Panna Rittikrai has proven he knows how to choreograph innovative fight sequences. Prachya Pinkaew has proven his abilities as a director and producer of this genre. It is now up to them to start making strong business decisions to keep climbing up. Their combination of that Hong Kong energy with Muay Thai and Krabi Krabong gave cinematic accessibility to the Thai arts.

KOREA


With films such as Fighter in the Wind and The Man from Nowhere, the Korean film industry has proven that it can stage martial arts fight scenes in a compelling way. It will be interesting to see how and what they produce in their action film industry. The combination of that Hong Kong energy with the Korean arts makes it more fluid and dynamic to showcase their arts’ skills.

USA


Director Isaac Flourentine, and martial arts actors Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White have inherited this energy as well, and it is apparent in films like Undisputed 2 and 3, Ninja, and Blood and Bone. Sometimes, they produce hits, and sometimes misses. My personal opinion is that they’ve done enough of the tournament movies. Keep moving forward, and don’t pidgeon-hole yourself. The combination of that Hong Kong energy with American kickboxing, Karate, Jujitsu, and MMA has definitely drawn a line in the sand of how to make western martial artists look explosive.

INDONESIA


The latest newcomer to the martial arts cinema scene, they proved worthiness with Merantau. Director Garreth Evans, martial arts actor Iko Uwais, and choreographer Yayan Ruhian have magical combination that rivals Thailand’s Pinkaew-Jaa-Rittikrai’s team. Merantau was distributed on Netflix, a very smart first move, and then they exploded the martial arts cinema genre with The Raid. The combination of that Hong Kong energy with the brutality of the Indonesian martial art Silat, they are showcasing not only their skills, but busting the stereotype that fluid, dynamic, explosive martial arts choreography has to tame the brutality in favor of athleticism. I think martial arts cinema fans are sort of jaded with the gymnastics of it all, and ready to see some real applications of real self-defense techniques.

Perhaps the ongoing success of the films coming from Thailand, Korea, USA, and Indonesia will feed the energy back to Hong Kong. That would be great! But for now, I’m happy to now know who and where to follow for the next over-the-top martial arts film!

-Santanu

An Open Letter to Roger Ebert

Posted in Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian with tags , , on April 6, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

(No real spoilers, but for those who haven’t seen it you may want to wait until afterward to read this)

I loved The Raid. Yep, loved it to death. I gave it a 10/10 in my review grade, and I’ll stand by that grade, as I do all others. I know I’m not alone, but there is a contingent of folks, few though they are, who didn’t like the film. Roger Ebert didn’t care much for it, and said so, and then further defended his one star review on his website. I have no issue with anyone who didn’t like the film. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and that’s fine. He had some good points as to why he didn’t care for it himself. What I take offense to is that his review and defense of it afterward felt like–and I could just be overly sensitive– it was hurling insults at those who did, and that’s wrong.

A martial arts film is like ice cream. There are hundreds of flavors, some appeal better than others, but each has their value. You have your flowery films, like in Yuen Woo Ping’s fight choreography in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or The House of Flying Daggers, or you can have comedy kung-fu, like Drunken Master or Rumble in the Bronx, pioneered by Jackie Chan. Then there are the bone-crunching films as done by Jet Li, Bruce Lee, Donnie Yen, Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins, Tony Jaa, Steven Seagal and yes, Iko Uwais. They range from period epics to fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary action. What they–and The Raid–aren’t is “violence porn”. No one is getting off on watching someone getting killed brutally or otherwise. Fans of martial arts films love the fight choreography and the performers involved.

If I want a Merchant/Ivory film where everyone sits around all day talking about their feelings over a cup of tea, then I’ll go watch Howards End. If I want to see what imaginative fights Panna Rittikrai, Yuen Woo Ping, Larnell Stovall or Yayan Ruhian have come up with this time then that’s what I go to see these films for, the same as those who go to musicals. What ultimately makes a musical good or not will be how good the music and dance numbers are. In much the same way, Martial arts films are decided by how good the fight choreography is. If the acting is good, that’s a bonus. It should at least be passable, and the martial artist some onscreen presence. If the story is great, once again that’s a nice bonus, but it does need to be decent. Jackie Chan’s films mostly sit on paper-thin stories that are built around whatever stunts he want to do for that film; this is fine because that’s why we go to see his films. The Raid is brutal. Yes, but so is Silat, the fighting style Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian use. It’s not nice, nor should it be portrayed as such onscreen. Anything less would dishonor the style they’ve spent a good portion of their lives studying.

One of my real issues comes from Roger Ebert’s review and then his defense of that review, especially one statement:

“There’s obviously an audience for the film, probably a large one. They are content, even eager, to sit in a theater and watch one action figure after another pound and blast one another to death. They require no dialogue, no plot, no characters, no humanity. Have you noticed how cats and dogs will look at a TV screen on which there are things jumping around? It is to that level of the brain’s reptilian complex that the film appeals.”
Where to start.

1. No dialogue.

It’s true that not much is said. What needs to be in their situation? Is the hero required to provide a dissertation on his life? Actually Roger’s assertion is only partially correct. There is a lot being said, but it’s being said with their expressions and glances. Due to their situation they don’t have the time for long drawn out conversations. In fact talking would probably alert the bad guys to where they are at, and that wouldn’t be a good thing.

2. No Plot.

Yes, there is a plot. It doesn’t have to be complex to define it as having one. Not that Roger got that right, either:

“The Raid: Redemption’ is essentially a visualized video game that spares the audience the inconvenience of playing it. There are two teams, the police SWAT team and the gangsters. The gangsters have their headquarters on the top floor of a 15-story building, where they can spy on every room and corridor with video surveillance. The SWAT team enters on the ground floor. Its assignment: Fight its way to the top, floor by floor.”

Their assignment was to go in and capture Tama. They didn’t WANT to fight floor by floor, and this is reflected by how they entered the building, which was quietly. The point is during the raid things go wrong, and Tama is notified. The police try to escape by going down, but they are cut off, and they understand that only by getting Tama can they get out alive, but that in itself would be suicidal. So there is a plot.

3. No Characters

Rama seems to be a good character, and while true, you don’t get to learn a lot about him, but you know enough, and what about Mad Dog? He was a fun character, and turns out to be most people’s favorites. He was an unrelenting villain, who enjoys the fighting to a maniacal degree. Andi, another one of Tama’s lieutenants, is also a pretty good character because he’s got his own motivations that may place him at odds with Tama’s plans. Then there is Jaka, the SWAT team leader, a brave and loyal man who is placed into a difficult situation under fire, and is determined to get his men out alive.

4. No humanity.

Once again, completely not true. What about the tenant in room 766, who protects the police at his–and his wife’s–peril? The SWAT unit is placed into a bad situation, once in which killing–or incapacitating– as quickly as possible is the only means to survive, and that is what the film is about–survival. If you note Rama leaves quite a few people alive, and in fact he actually leaves more bad guys alive than he kills, even though he leaves them really, really hurt.

Folks who love martial arts films love them for many reasons. Yes, we still appreciate films that have a human dimension, meaning and morality. If I want a martial arts film with that kind of story, I always have them to lean on. I consider myself to be an intelligent man, and I’ve reviewed dozens of martial arts films, and will review hundreds more.

I loved The Raid.

It doesn’t make me a simple-minded or morally bankrupt person because I do.

Michael S Moore

Review: The Raid (2011)

Posted in Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian with tags , on April 2, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah, Ray Sahetapy

Fight Choreography by Yayan Ruhian

Directed by Gareth Evans

After the success of Merantau I’ve been waiting to see what Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais had to offer for a follow-up. Merantau was a good start, and I believed they would/should make a modest jump with their next film as far as the typical evolution of martial arts action stars. First they were making a prison film called Berandal. Then news was scarce as to that film’s progress. Before long talk started of a different film called The Raid. Would this be the film that launches Iko Uwais into Tony Jaa territory?

The Raid didn’t launch Iko Uwais into Tony Jaa territory. It launched him well above that!

The Raid follows Rama (Uwais) a rookie swat team member, and soon to be father, who is sent with his team led by the brave Jaka (Taslim) into a tenement building containing Tama (Sahetapy), one of the most dangerous drug dealers in Jakarta. What Rama and most of the other swat team members don’t know is that Tama knew they were coming to get him, and he waits until they are well into the 20+ story building and then sends waves of killer thugs to kill every officer, and soon the tenement building becomes a warzone in which Rama only wants to survive and get back to his wife..but aside from the mission Rama also has a secret he desperately wants to hide…

The premise sounds simple enough, and it is, but don’t take that to mean that the story is paper thin or nonexistent. On the other hand, there are dramas that unfurl as the film progresses, like how Tama knew the police were coming, and Rama’s secret, one that could jeopardize his new career, and Tama’s lieutenants, who may have designs on taking Tama’s job…

Once the action gets going, The Raid never lets up. Gareth Evans does a masterful job of creating what is truly a roller-coaster ride of a film. He squeezes every bit of tension from every scene once things begin to go wrong for the SWAT team. Once the tension starts there is no let up until the credits roll. His camera angles are all well chosen, and gets the maximum impact of every scene. His director is sure handed and far beyond what he did in Merantau. Gareth Evans, in my opinion, has now cemented his place as one of the best action film directors around. Such a stupendous job. Evans has earned his seat next to John Woo, John McTiernan, and other great action film directors.

Iko Uwais. There can’t be enough said about him. His performance was great as the bewildered Rama. He never acts like a macho hero; rather he’s just a good guy in a bad situation who simply wants to live long enough to see his unborn child. Iko’s silat skills are on full display, and he doesn’t disappoint. His movements are as brutal as they are graceful, and he has the screen presence to carry the film. For years martial arts fans have been looking for the next Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan or Jet Li. While he still has a lot to prove, Iko Uwais has launched himself into the upper tier of martial arts action stars.

The other actors do a fantastic job themselves. Pierre Gruno plays the old cop Wahyu with the layer of slime and cowardice that will have you hating him before the film is over, and Joe Taslim was also great as Jaka the team leader. In most films he would have been the main action star, and you know what? Taslim could’ve pulled that off. He was that good as Jaka.

The fight choreography by Yayan Ruhian is a masterstroke of intense fighting. Every fight scene continues to escalate, and the fighting is incredibly fast-paced, and range from one-on-ones, to knife-fighting, to two-on-ones and one versus about ten or fifteen. Every fight is well staged and features some of the most brutal takedowns ever committed to film. There were a dozen fight scenes that ended with me cringing and laughing all at once as they concluded in unexpected ways.Yayan even plays the part of Mad Dog, the main henchman of Tama. That may have been a nod /homage to Hard Boiled’s Mad Dog, but Yayan makes his character his own brand of crazy, and his final fight with Iko Uwais is a brutal knockdown drag out that has to be one of the best on-screen fights of all time.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Yayan delivers some of the best fight choreography ever seen on film. Every fight is evocative of the escalating situation, and the speed and skills of all the fighters are placed on full display. There is a brutal rhythm to each fight that sets them apart from one another, but all are part of the greater composition.

STUNTWORK: (10) Sweet lord they used a lot of stunt men, and they needed every damn one of them. The falls were brutal, the ricochets off of appliances and walls and doors and, well damn near everything is the best stunt work I’ve seen since Jackie Chan’s Police Story.

STAR POWER: (10) Iko Uwais has leaped right over Tony Jaa and even Donnie Yen with this film. While he still needs to have a longer body of work, making a modern classic like this allows the discussion to be had about who’s the best martial arts star out there right now. What do I think? Uwais has my vote. Joe Taslim needs to get more work as an action hero, and Yayan needs to get his own film!

FINAL GRADE: (10) The Raid is a new modern-day classic that takes martial arts films to the next level, and raises the bar so high it’ll be difficult to reach for a while, and Iko Uwais is now one of the top stars of martial arts cinema. One of the best martial arts films ever made.

Review: Merantau (2009)

Posted in Iko Uwais, Laurent Buson, Yayan Ruhian with tags , on June 11, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Laurent Buson, Mads Koudal, Alex Abbad, Sisca Jessica

Fight Choreography by Iko Uwais, Team Silat Harimou

Directed by Gareth Evans

The last few years has seen a rush of successful martial arts films from countries not named China or Japan, and names like Tony Jaa, Jeeja Yanin, and Johnny Nguyen have jump to the top of martial arts films. Now a new name from a country not known for martial arts films is here to take his place among them. So how does newcomer Iko Uwais do for for his first time out?

The merantau is a journey that young men in Indonesia take that is a rite of adulthood. It is a a journey of self-realization and finding out their place in the world. The film is about a young man named Yuda (Uwais) whose time has come to go on merantau. The film spends some time with Yuda’s mother and older brother, who has already had his merantau. Yuda has dreams of going to Jakarta and teach his form of Silat harimou in a school of his own. After he leaves home he meets Eric (Ruhian), a fellow traveller who warns Yuda to let go of his dreams, as the world is a much darker and dangerous place. Eric’s words become true as Yuda tries to intervene when a dancer named Astrid (Jessica) is about to be beaten by her boss Johni (Abbad). Yuda’s heroic act is met with hostility by Astrid and her little brother, and Yuda begins to understand that the world is far more complicated than it ever was in his village. Johni needs Astrid to be one of his “girls” for Ratger and Luc, two wealthy but dysfunctional European brothers who are there on business and want a good time.

Johni forces Astrid to go to them, but damn his shitty luck that Yuda sees this, and gives him and his men a grand beatdown, taking Astrid from them and injuring Ratger’s face. These men may not have been aware that Yuda was a Country Bumpkin (you’ve heard this in many of my reviews. These dudes are all badasses.)This affront Ratger cannot take, and has Johni hire men to hunt down Yuda and Astrid, leading to a ton of fights before a fantastic finale on a warehouse pier as Yuda faces off with both Ratger (Koudal) and Luc (Busson) for a final showdown.

Merantau is a confident film to feature such a newcomer, much like Ong Bak was for Tony Jaa. Iko Uwais turns out to be a decent actor, not having a lot of emotion to convey, but what is there he does well. His style of Silat Harimou, which features many low tiger stances and movements, are well done here, but at first the fight choreography isn’t that different from films like Ong Bak, at least not at first. As the film progresses you really begin to see the style of Silat come to the fore. Toward the end there are three standout fights. The first is Yuda against his friend Eric in an elevator, which is a fantastic showcase of silat from two fighters who are well versed in the style. The cramped elevator makes the fight even more intense as you know one mistake and Yuda is dead.  The second is a great fight where half of Indonesia attacks Yuda, and he battles them on the top of a series of shipping containers, and really jacks them up Police Story style,  and the final fight is against both Ratger and Luc. I was greatly impressed by this, as the film doesn’t hint that either brother knows martial arts, and the quiet Luc was especially excellent as the super-kicker of the two. Laurent and Mads did an excellent job here. Can we get more Laurent Buson in a film, please? This guy has done a bunch of short films, and this is his biggest film yet. He reminds me of all the super-kickers who used to take on Jackie Chan back in his 80s’ films. More of him, please!

Merantau is a great first entry for a new talent like Iko Uwais, and just like Tony Jaa the sky’s the limit for him. A good film with great fights and a good story that shows that hope can come from the most unlikely of places. And that Country boys are not to be jacked with!

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) The early parts of the film are nothing that hasn’t been seen in a Tony Jaa film, but toward the end they pull out the stops. The elevator fight is a stunning fight scene that really brings home the style of Silat, and the final fight between Uwais and Buson and Koudal is a showstopping fight that is beautiful and brutal all at once.

STUNTWORK: (9) These guys are as insane as Tony Jaa and Jackie Chan’s guys. The scene where the stuntman jump from one building to another only to meet a pole halfway deserves and award, and the fight on the shipping containers will make you wince. Well done.

STAR POWER: (8) Iko Uwais has the talent to go far, but his movie choices will ultimately decide how big he becomes. Buson is a great talent that needs to be a featured baddie more often. You listening Tony Jaa?

FINAL GRADE: (9) Not a perfect film, but a very, very good martial arts film that showcases a style new to film and a new star as well. We should all be looking forward to what Uwais comes up with next.