(director/writer: Conor Allyn; screenwriter: Rob Allyn; cinematographer: Shane Daly; editor: Harvey Rosenstock; music: Justin Caine Burnett; cast: Kellan Lutz (Jake Wilde), Mickey Rourke (Malik), Atiqah Hasiholan (Sultana), Rudy Wowar (Sultan), Ario Bayu (Lt. Hashim), Frans Tumbuan (General Sriyono), Tio Pakusadewo (Vizier); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Conor Allyn/Rob Allyn; IFC Films; 2013-Indonesia/USA-in English & Inonesian, with English subtitles when necessary)
“Never had a good flow to it.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This Indonesian action film received mostly poor reviews and was a direct-to-video release in America. American filmmaker Conor Allyn (“Abducted”/”Overexposed”) helms this technically proficient but generic actioner that’s set in Indonesia (the fourth largest country in the world and with the world’s largest Muslim population). His father and co-writer Rob Allyn is chairman and CEO of Margate House Films, the studio making the film. Both have worked previously in Indonesia and live there part of the year. They have a good grasp of the culture and of the area’s exotic landscape. They set their busy crime thriller on the bustling island of Java, and have a cast of both Americans and Indonesians in starring roles. The story follows a culturally mismatched pair of buddy cops investigating an Indonesian terrorist attack.
One of the investigators is the mysterious American Jake (Kellan Lutz, Twilight heartthrob), who at first poses as a Cornell grad school art history assistant and then as an undercover FBI agent and finally is revealed as an AWOL Marine M.P.. The hunky Jake eventually connects with the cerebral Java cop, Lt. Hashim (Ario Bayu), assigned to the police department’s Detachment 88. The efficient cop and devout Muslim and good family man, Lt. Hashim, is in charge of investigating a terrorist attack at a public art event, where the country’s revered and beautiful Sultana (Atiqah Hasiholan) was supposedly killed in a bomb explosion. Since Jake was at the event he’s brought into the police station as a witness.
Upon leaving the station the American and the Java cop are ambushed in a police van. The American saves the cop’s life by gunning down two of the Jihadists, with the third escaping. The reluctant Hashim decides to team with the American despite finding him to be a liar and reckless person, in order to have the best chance to track down the terrorists.
Top-heavy with gunfights, explosions, and car chases, it also includes a look at rickshaws still used as taxis and provides a running commentary on contrasting American and Indonesian cultural differences (such as telling us the proper way for a native to greet another is to kiss their hand and that the aggressive Americans don’t listen but try to tell you things they don’t know).
The macho men spring into action when they learn the real culprit is a dangerous French sociopath jewel thief, Malik (Mickey Rourke), who is unintentionally funny speaking in a confusing French accent. He uses the cover of the Jihadists to try and rob the country’s jewels, so instead of killing the Sultana, he holds her for ransom–forcing her father, the Sultan (Rudy Wowar), to turn over the jewels or he will kill his daughter. For good measure, Malik kidnaps Hashim’s wife and two young boys hoping this will stop the cop from pursuing him.
The mismatched buddy cops trade barbs about how Americans think of themselves as Number One and joke about how Rambo is a cross-cultural hero figure.They are each determined to get the sicko jewel thief/terrorist and take down his murderous Jihadists cohorts for the harm they caused each of their families with their violent acts (we learn Jake is motivated to be here because his younger idolizing Marine brother was killed by a suicide bomber).
Most of the fight scenes were skillfully carried out, but the film never had a good flow to it, the acting was only barely decent (with the best performance a nuanced one by Bayu and the most absurd one by Rourke), and the story came across as awkward. It’s not a bad film (it has entertainment value), but it’s not a good one. It gives us barely any insights into terrorists–supposedly what the film was to explore.
REVIEWED ON 1/23/2020 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/