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Merantau
(aka Merantau Warrior)
2009; directed by Gareth Evans

Merantau is an Indonesian term for a rite of passage young men take, where they go on a long and often treacherous journey to find their true purpose in life. For Yuda, the hero of this 2009 release, apparently that journey involves beating the hell out of a lot of people in violent, inventive, and exciting ways, much to the benefit of the audience, who are in for a real treat with this film. Simply put, Merantau is one of the best pure martial arts movies released over the past several years and may have given us a bonafide new star in the form of Iko Uwais.

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Yuda's jaunt takes him from his small village to Jakarta, where almost right away he sees a girl, Astri (Sisca Jessica), being beat up. Yuda saves Astri, but ends up opening up a rabbit hole that leads him down a dangerous road which takes him into the world of sex-trade human trafficking. Though Merantau's plot is fairly simple, the movie is still a slow burn, with almost forty-five minutes going by until the first real action scene occurs. Those with ADD or too many Red Bulls in their system might feel a bit of boredom kicking in during this period -- but hold tight, because the last half of Merantau is one hell of a ride.

Merantau    Merantau

I haven't seen any other Indonesian action films that I can recall offhand, but if the results displayed here are any indication, then the area will definitely be one for action movie fans to keep an eye on. I really hope the stuntmen earned some sort of hazard pay and not just a couple of sheckles and a hot lunch for their efforts. We're talking mid-80's Hong Kong level of "kill yourself for $25 a day" stuff here, folks. There's one stunt where a guy falls off a four or five story high scaffold. There was a bit of tweaking with wires to slow the fall down, but damn, somebody get that dude some Excedrin. And that's only one of the many "holy shit" moments you're going to see here.

Merantau    Merantau

In this day and age where film-makers and studios often seem to think a big budget and flashy special effects will automatically gush forth excitement to the audience, a film like Merantau was totally refreshing. It's low-key and really not flashy in the least, but delivers more fun and thrills than a dozen Michael Bay movies, even without having huge robot testicles dangling about the screen. If you're a martial arts or action movie fan and like having an old-fashioned no-frills ass-kicking fun time, do yourself a favor -- track down a copy Merantau, grab a couple of frosty beverages, and get set to watch unadulterated cinematic goodness.

RATING: 8

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DVD Information

Released through Magnolia's genre label, Magnet, the main feature on the DVD is the international cut of the movie, running 112 minutes versus the Indonesian version's 135 minutes. The scenes that were cut can be viewed via the special features menu, but unfortunately, there is no way to include them in the movie itself. The picture is anamorphic widescreen in a 1.78:1 ratio and looks solid for the most part. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack can be listened to in Indonesian or English, with English and Spanish subtitles available. Extras include the aforementioned deleted scenes as well as bloopers, a storyboard to scene comparison, behind the scenes featurettes, and trailers for the movie and several other Magnolia releases.

The DVD and Blu-ray are available at Amazon.

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