This was the movie that debuted Iko Uwais’ martial arts talent to the world of martial arts cinema. Made in Indonesia in 2009, Merantau shows off an awesome level of action and is the movie that lead to the creation of ‘The Raid Redemption‘ – one of my personal list toppers in martial arts action films.
The movie tells us about the tradition of Merantau – where a young boy must venture off to make money and find personal success and become a man. Yuda, played by Iko Uwais, ventures off into the city with the hope of teaching Silat, an Indonesian martial art he has incredible skill in. But when he arrives at the address he is supposed to be living at, the place is torn down and he is forced to live on the streets homeless.
To make things even harder, a young boy steals his wallet and he is forced to chase after him and before long he encounters a thug beating a girl in an alley way – in true hero style he steps in sorts the guy out.
After meeting the young girl, Astri, and her brother Adit, Yuda is at first told to leave them alone and they part ways. But during a phone call to his mother sometime later he finds her being man handled again against her will. Yuda then steps up to the group of thugs and gives them all a rather good flogging!
From there the boss of the thugs gets angry and they go after all 3 – Yuda, Astri and Adit. It’s then that Yuda has become the man he wants to be and face these thugs in an awesome action film packed with Indonesian Martial Arts and savage fights.
Becoming a Man – Merantau
I’ll admit, there’s not a hell of a lot of character development in this, even with the big them of becoming a man but you can recognise the theme.
While Yuda expects to show up and quite simply do his thing, he is instead homeless and has to pull out all of the stops just to live. On top of that he unflinchingly follows up on his belief of right and wrong by standing up against violence towards women – which is what gets him in to trouble.
This whole setup really gets you behind Yuda, cheering for his cause as he’s out there as the underdog taking on the masses of violent thugs being sent his way – while he’s simply doing what’s right as a man. Quite often these simple moral characters create the best heroes in movies when they seem to be just so dangerous!
As with most things doing what’s right has consequences, and Yuda is forced to deal with the danger he puts himself into but he follows through perfectly doing his absolute best to save Astri and Adit and help them with their struggle.
This is the driving forced behind his character and the action of the film creating that humble and moral grounding behind what a good hero should be – especially considering how vicious his fights seem to be.
The Action & Martial Arts
Iko Uwais brings a very charismatic performance and has already begun to cement himself has a top name in martial arts movies with this flick.
His scenes are vicious but they aren’t full of amazing stunts and backflips – but punches kicks and real martial arts movements that seem to exist within the reality of actual combat – being less flashy and more gritty. In saying that Iko’s fast and intense performance is still impressive as the pace never wavers, he just continues to outsmart and outfight his way to until the very end creating this image of rage driven violence.
Iko’s visual fighting style in this movie also looks a little more realistic as he doesn’t pose or have a picture perfect fighting stance, instead being more instinctive with his movements and delivering the savage moves and techniques the art of Silat has to offer.
This movie is definitely a decent chunk of modern movie history, it is a big step for Indonesian martial arts films and without it we wouldn’t have seen the epic movie The Raid Redemption. I cannot wait to see what else comes of Iko Uwais in the future!
On Blu Ray –
Region A (US & Canada)
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Merantau on DVD
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Merantau Warrior [DVD]
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
Merantau on DVD