Today I watched Gareth Evans’ Merantau (2009)
In the Minangkabau culture, travel is considered a vital way of reaching maturity and acquiring wealth and knowledge. Yuda is on such a trip, having left his small town life, heading to one of Indonesia’s large urban centers. When he arrives, he finds the place he was supposed to stay has been torn down, making him homeless. Furthermore he gets pick-pocketed and when he runs the kid down, he gets involved with a man hitting some young woman. Being an action flick, one thing quickly leads to another and soon Yuda is waging a one man war against a whole ring of international sex traffickers.
Frankly, this movie is pretty generic as far as action films go, it is much more interesting to look at in retrospect after Evans’ Raid films. Really there are many films in this vein and many directors working in the field, what set Evans apart was his unwillingness to rest on his laurels. Certainly this film is a very well shot and choreographed film, but surprisingly few directors try to evolve from that in the direction of greater narrative cohesion.
For Merantau as a standalone film, it mostly works on it’s excellence of execution. The production values here are very high and there is plenty of creativity in the blocking and choreography. It is also a particularly colourful film, which may not be in keeping with it’s subject matter, but it’s certainly visually pleasing. So if you do enjoy your action movies with a dose of aesthetics, I would certainly recommend this film, but if your a fan of The Raid, this is a very interesting piece for history. 4/5