When I watch a high-quality martial arts film like "Fist of Legend" or "Drunken Master II", I'm getting more from it than just a testosterone rush. Most American "fighting" films don't offer much more than foley-laden 'crunches'. There's a quality of work in the fight choreography in Eastern martial arts films that can only be likened to the thrill I got as a kid watching Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire pull off their amazing dance moves. I can watch the better made chop-sockies over and over again to admire the complexity and inherent beauty of the motion. Oh yeah, and sometimes you just want to see someone's ass get so thoroughly kicked that you know for sure it wasn't all just special effects. Hell, despite what some of you weirdos apparently think after our "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" review, I AM still a guy, you know.
Recently, there was a major upsurge in interest in Asian martial arts films when Thailand out of nowhere presented us with a new superstar, Tony Jaa, the elbow and knee hitting Muy Thai warrior. Now another surprise breakout star, Iko Uwais, has appeared from Indonesia. Here's the official film description of his debut film "Merantau":
In Minangkabau, West Sumatera, Yuda a skilled practitioner of Silat Harimau is in the final preparations to begin his “Merantau” a century’s old rites-of-passage to be carried out by the community’s young men that will see him leave the comforts of his idyllic farming village and make a name for himself in the bustling city of Jakarta. After a series of setbacks leave Yuda homeless and uncertain about his new future, a chance encounter results in him defending the orphaned Astri from becoming the latest victim of a European human trafficking ring led by the wildly psychotic, Ratger and his right-hand man Luc. With Ratger injured in the melee and seeking both his “merchandise” and bloody retribution, Yuda’s introduction to the city is a baptism of fire as he is forced to go on the run with Astri and her younger brother Adit as all the pimps and gangsters that inhabit the night hound the streets chasing their every step. With escape seemingly beyond their grasp, Yuda has no choice but to face his attackers in an adrenaline charged, jaw-dropping finale.
Yada yada, revenge, blah blah. Generally speaking, martial arts films aren't famous for their gripping plots. What they ARE famous for you can see in this trailer for the film:
That kicks all kinds of ass. And that last shot with the pole? How the hell did they even do that without an impaled stunt man? Officially this is on my radar. For those who follow these sorts of things like I do, I advise checking out Twitchfilm.net who have been following the film closely for awhile now. This interview with director Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais is a good place to start. Here's hoping this one is as intense as it looks!