Do I even have to say how much I love The Raid series of movies? In case you haven’t caught read any past entries I’ll just say that to me they are the best action movies of the past decade or so. They have been gold standard of action that no other movie has been able to achieve. Color me surprised to find out that Evans did a movie years earlier called Merantau. After reading some reviews even more questions ran through my mind. Is it as good as the reviews say? How much have Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian changed between movies? Would I get a sweet ass soundtrack from Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda? I just had to know.
Iko Uwais stars as Yuda, a young man who is going to participate in the tradition of Merantau; a tradition similar to Rumspringa. Leaving his small home in West Sumarta he plans to move to Jakarta to teach the martial art of Silat. When his wallet is stolen by a child he is quickly brought into the world of human trafficking.
As with Evans’ other action movies the plot isn’t all that innovative. But in all honesty that isn’t as important as how well acted it is. While I found Uwais a bit wooden the rest of the cast gave a fun mix of over-the-top and actually good performances. Quite a few of the characters are cast by action choreographers or stuntmen and it shoes. But let’s be real you aren’t coming into Merantau for a thought provoking story. It’d be nice but hardly essential. No you are looking for the hard hitting, bone breaking action you usually get in a Gareth Evans movie. Happy to say that this generally lives up to those expectations.
Without a lot of gun play the movie relies on Uwais’ martial arts skills and that’s always fun. As is the almost-required Uwais-Yayan Ruhian fight; this time showing Captain America how great an elevator fight can be. My problem was that despite this it lacked the killer edge of The Raid or The Raid 2. Instead this is more of a straight-up martial arts movie and it’s great in that sense. Regardless the action was perfectly integrated into the story and never felt overdone or gratuitous.
Have you ever watched the behind the scenes features of a Pixar movie? In particular the test footage where they are crafting what the characters will look like after story boards. They’ll use a basic framework to mold what the character will look like eventually. That’s what Merantau felt like when compared to the other Gareth Evans films. While the action was good throughout it lacked that vicious pop that made The Raid stand out. Expectations aside this is a top notch action movie that shouldn’t be overlooked.