Bona Fide Action Hero
As The Raid: Redemption opens here in cinemas tomorrow, I thought it was probably ripe to take a trip down memory lane with writer-director Gareth Evans' earlier Indonesian action film with his crew and cast members whom he had also collaborated with in Merantau. If you haven't seen The Raid, you may want to get the DVD of Merantau to get a flavour of what to expect from a more combative side of Silat, and to be convinced of Iko Uwais' charisma to become the next big action star from this part of the world.
If you have watched The Raid and have come off impressed, then all the more you should watch this film as it showcases what I thought would be the filmmaking team's potential to do something more (which they did with The Raid), where you can see some shades of The Raid in the way Iko Uwais' Yuda fights his way through into a high rise building (this film covers more ground with its various outdoor locations), and the patterns of carefully and clearly crafted fight choreography that will probably become signature of the Merantau team in films to come.
Not that I'm complaining, because it has no time for gimmicky edits to mask shortcomings in fights, preferring that the audience get to see and feel every punch, kick and throw. It's hard hitting action by going for the jugular, and not having quick edits ruin the flow, or having shots that are too close that you can't see squat.
You can read my review of Merantau here.
Until the special/collector's edition gets released some time soon, I had to continue my fix for some serious ass kicking with this Indonesian Region Free DVD of Merantau by Jive Collection, which presents the feature film in an anamorphic widescreen format, with audio in its original Indonesian language track in either Dolby 5.1 or Stereo. Unfortunately, this edition doesn't come with English subtitles, but Bahasa Indonesia only, but if you, like me, isn't too perturbed by it and don't mind double dipping (the special/collector's edition will contain English subtitles), then you can relive the many Silat martial arts action and stunt sequences sans the need to understand the spoken word. Scene selection is available over 12 chapters.
The Special Features in this DVD centers around the making of the film. Included is the Production Blog that contains a wealth of information. Writer-director Gareth Evans speaks in English, so there's no need for subtitles to understand what he's saying, and through the clips here, you can tell he's very assured in knowing the kind of shots and sequences that he wants in his film. A pity though that there is no Play All option available, so you'd have to click on each individual sub-section one by one, each with an Iko Uwais introduction to Silat.
- The Beginning (5:03): There are plenty of rehearsal footage and those on pre-production work, from storyboarding to interviews with writer-director Gareth Evans, producer Ario Sagantoro and star Iko Uwais.
- The Choreography (5:05): It doesn't take too long to look at the many fight design, choreography and rehearsals again, with the stunt team and Silat martial arts practitioners having a hand at putting Silat on film, with Gareth providing inputs on which sequences would look good on film. A collaborative effort here between director and martial artists in bringing out the best for the big screen.
- The Test (5:49): A look at test shots, makeup effects and the selection of on location sets.
- The Cast and Press Conference (5:17): In two parts, with the first being interviews with the other cast members such as Sisca Jessica, and the two other Caucasian dudes Mads Koudal and Laurent Buson, who has Shaolin background, and a quick look at the press conference called to introduce the film some six months before its premiere.
- The 56 Takes (5:04): A one take steadicam shot of the entire fight at the nightclub is responsible for that number of takes to get everything right.
- Bekasi (5:08): How the finale at the container docks got filmed, with a near miss accident involving Iko, as well as the rainy weather wrecking havoc on the location. Some 3 weeks were spent here to get everything right, since it's one massive action sequence from start to finish involving plenty of extras, as well as the climatic good versus evil battle between Yuda, Ratger and Luc. Perhaps that's why The Raid was predominantly shot indoors to get away from all the trouble the weather puts on a production schedule!
- Bukit Tingga (6:04): The scenes shot on location in Sumatera that bookended the film.
- Streets and Alleyways (6:04): This is pretty self-explanatory, looking at the making of scenes set at the alleyways that pepper the movie, culminating on the stunt involving a motorcyclist being brought down from his bike via a slinged towel. Gareth also has a knack for sharing the toys and equipment used to acheive the shots required and seen in the final film.
- Studios and Recruitment Centre (5:48): Studios got used for interior shots, as well as taking a look at Yayan Ruhian's first Silat battle that got shot in and around the Recruitment Centre.
- Rumah Susun (4:28), which is the long chase and fight sequence that culminates in the money shot of the rooftop chase.
And if the details in the production blog isn't enough, there's the standard Behind the Scene (18:15) making of featurette containing snippets from the final film, behind the scenes, and interviews with various cast and crew members. There's little not already seen and learnt from the production blog, save for the interview portions.
Rounding up the extras on this DVD edition is the Bonus Features section that's more of a trailer section containing the trailers for Merantau (5:11), Pintu Terlarang (1:55) and 3 Doa 3 Cinta (1:54), and packaged into the DVD jewel case is a full color booklet (in Bahasa Indonesia) and a bookmark.