Merantau (2009)

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Released 11-Oct-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Martial Arts Featurette-Making Of
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-x 10
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Eastern Eye Trailers x 4
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 107:21
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Gareth Evans
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Iko Uwais
Sisca Jessica
Christine Hakim
Mads Koudal
Yusuf Aulia
Alex Abbad
Yayan Ruhian
Laurent Buson
Doni Alamsyah
Ratna Galih
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Indonesian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Indonesian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Yuda (Iko Uwais) lives with his mother Wulan (Christine Hakim) and older brother Yayan (Donny Alamsyah) growing tomatoes in West Sumatra. Yuda is also a skilled practitioner of the Indonesian martial arts called silat. In West Sumatran culture there is a right of passage called Merantau; young men have to leave home to prove themselves before returning. It is now time for Yuda to go and he bids goodbye to his mother and the idyllic rural life and travels to Jakarta planning to teach silat for a living. But things don’t go according to plan; the house where he was to stay had been demolished and Yuda has little money and nowhere to stay so he sleeps rough in a construction site.

     When street kid Adit (Yusuf Aulia) steals Yuda’s wallet, Yuda chases him through the alleyways and is on hand to see Adit’s sister Astri (Sisca Jessica), a dancer in a cheap nightclub, being slapped around by her employer Johni (Alex Abbad). Yuda rescues her, half destroying the nightclub in the process. However, Johni was procuring girls for white slavers Ratger (Mads Koudal) and Luc (Laurent Buson) and Ratger is in no mood to let Astri escape. With an army of thugs looking for him on the street, Yuda is attacked and Astri recaptured. The stage is set for a final, violent life or death confrontation as Yuda takes on all comers in the explosive climax.

     Merantau is a real oddity; an Indonesian martial arts film with a Welsh director in Gareth Evans. But don’t let that deter you because this is a wonderful martial arts film, full of energetic fight sequences using wires and real fighters, where the moves, kicks, punches and blocks are clearly shown without the slick quick cutting that plagues so many action films these days. There are fights in a nightclub, across rooftops and bamboo scaffolding, in a lift and finally in, around and on top of shipping containers. The fights are inventive, using a number of different moves, various weapons and styles, but are mostly hand to hand with kicks. It really is quite old fashioned in a way, reminiscent of the wonderful Hong Kong Golden Harvest martial arts films of the 1980s when Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuan Biao where in their fighting prime. More recently, of course, Tony Jaa and Ong Bak have been the inheritors of this wonderful martial arts tradition; now they are joined by Iko Uwais.

     Uwais is fabulous. He looks great, has screen charisma, is athletic with great fighting skills, and he can act! He is helped by the fact that Merantau rightly takes its time to set up the Sumatran background; this provides both the grounding of Uwais’ character and the contrast to the teeming, jumbled back streets and alleys of Jakarta. If Mads Koudal is rather over the top and cartoonish as the main villain, the remainder of the Indonesian cast are natural and convincing, including Sisca Jessica, Yusuf Aulia, Christine Hakim as the mother and Yayna Ruhian in a small but vital role as a rival silat practitioner.

     Other plusses for the film are the atmospheric music and the Jakarta locations. Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemal Tamin use a combination of Asian and Western instruments to provide a haunting accompaniment to the film. The film uses only a few indoor sets, such as the nightclub and various offices, and they are fairly poor. The nightclub looked particularly sparse. But once the film moves out into the streets, alleyways and tenements of Jakarta, teeming with traffic and life, it looks great, and the scenes with Yuda in his hide in the pipes of the construction site, with the high rise buildings of Jakarta in the background, are very beautiful.

     With a charismatic star, intense fighting sequences, good acting, great locations and a wonderful score, Merantau is new Asian cinema in the raw. If you liked Ong Bak or the classic martial arts films of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuan Biao, you will love Merantau. If you miss this one, you will miss a classic. Seek it out, you will not be disappointed.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Merantau is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced. The picture is occasionally a bit soft, and some shadow detail was lost, but blacks were solid, contrasts and brightness fine. The colours ranged from the natural hues of Sumatra to the more garish colours of Jakarta. Some scenes, such as that mentioned above, looked beautiful. My only criticism is that in many scenes the shin tones had a quite reddish tinge, which looked quite unnatural. On the other hand this is a nice, clean print and I did not notice any artefacts.

     The film has long sections in English. For the Indonesian dialogue, English subtitles are provided in a clear yellow font that contained no obvious spelling or grammatical errors.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a choice of Indonesian Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps or Indonesian Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224. The dialogue is clear amid the action effects; punches and kicks thud into bodies and the surrounds were constantly in use for music and effects, although panning effects were limited. The subwoofer mostly supported the music. The 2.0 was surround encoded and did a good job from the sample I listened to, although it did lack the cleanness and separation of the 5.1.

     The music by Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemal Tamin uses mainly percussion in the action sequences but utilises both Asian and Western instruments in the slower interludes. This is a great, atmospheric soundtrack; if I saw the CD in a shop I would buy it without hesitation. It comes across nicely in the mix.

     Lip Synchronisation was occasionally out but was never distracting.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Making of Merantau (15:12)

     Fairly superficial. A bit about the story, some comments on Indonesian culture and silat martial arts; with some behind the scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew. Interviewees were Gareth Evans (Writer / Director /Editor), Ario Sagantoro (Producer) plus cast Iko Uwais, Christine Hakim, Alex Abbad, Donny Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Yusuf Aulia and Sisca Jessica.

Deleted Scenes (4:36)

     A couple of sequences. The longer develops the character of Adit (approx 3:38), the other is an extended cut of the bad guys carrying Astri to a lift. There is no commentary or explanation of why they were deleted. And indeed there are other scenes not in the film, such as the recruiting centre sequence shown in the Behind the Scenes section. Presumably this was in the longer Indonesian cut of the film.

Behind the Scenes

     A fairly comprehensive and interesting look at diverse aspects of the making of the film. Included is rehearsal footage, storyboards, behind the scenes and interviews at various times with Gareth Evans (Writer / Director), Ario Sagantoro (Producer), Edwel Datuk Rajo Gampo Alam (Fight Choreographer), Didin Syamsudin (Special Effects Make Up), Moty (Art Director) plus cast Iko Uwais, Christine Hakim, Donny Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Mads Koudal, Laurent Buson and Sisca Jessica. It would have been useful to have a “play all” option as these must be selected individually. As well, each section comes with the same introduction and closing, which becomes a bit tedious. The various sections are:

Theatrical Trailer (2:48)

Eastern Eye Trailers

    Trailers for other films from Madman: 20th Century Boys (2:07), Kamui (1:35), Grandmaster Ip Man (1:25) and Chocolate (2:02).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 US version is due for release on 28/12/10 but as yet there are no specifications listed. The Region 2 UK release, called Merantau Warrior seems identical to our Region 4, both being the International cut at 107 minutes and with the same extras. The IMDb notes that the Indonesian director’s cut is 134 minutes but I cannot find a record of a release of this version on any site.

Summary

     Merantau is a wonderful martial arts film that introduces a new star in Iko Uwais. He looks great, has screen charisma, is athletic with great fighting skills, and he can act! With a charismatic star, intense fighting sequences, good acting, great locations and a wonderful score, Merantau is new Asian cinema in the raw. If you liked Ong Bak or the classic martial arts films of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuan Biao, you will love Merantau.

     The video and audio are good, and there is a diverse selection of genuine extras. If you have any interest in the genre, seek this one out; you will not be disappointed. Simply fabulous.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, November 22, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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