The Raid: Redemption (Serbuan Maut)

I’ve been noticing (and waiting impatiently) for the movie The Raid, ever since I saw my cousin posted its trailer on his facebook wall. I was awed by it, and even more surprised that this movie had gone international, going to release worldwide. Well, I’m not really that devoted to Indonesian movie industry until after I watched Sang Penari (The Dancer), so you could later confront me for this next sentence: I knew that it’s not the first time Indonesian movie goes international. I don’t really own a complete list of Indonesian movies which have gone worldwide, and what I could think of so far is only Pasir Berbisik (Whispering Sands), which has gotten about five awards in movie festivals, such as the Asia Pacific Film Festival, Singapore International Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival and Brisbane International Film Festival–and even up to now, I still haven’t watched the entire movie. I’ve seen it played and watched it for a while in one Indonesian channel once, but didn’t finished watching it eventually. I don’t remember whether it’s because I got bored in the end or because I had to do something else which apparently was more important and urgent than watching Dian Sastro and Christine Hakim.

Anyway, this movie was previously known as Serbuan Maut in Bahasa Indonesia, or just The Raid internationally, but as he explained in his blog dedicated for the movie, Gareth Evans and his team had to make a bit change in it in order for the movie to enter the United States of America. (Seriously, Americans, what the hell is wrong with ‘The Raid’??) Now it’s known officially as The Raid: Redemption. Gareth Evans (the director) also said that this probably is better since he was considering a trilogy–The Raid being the first part of the Trilogy.

The director, Gareth Evans, is apparently a Welsh, and seems like a big fan of Indonesian martial arts, known as Pencak Silat, or merely Silat. Other than guessing this based on all reviews I read from Times to some blogs reviewing this movie, I also assumed this based on watching a movie from the same director, collaborating with the same actor, Iko Uwais, called Merantau. In the one that I downloaded, it has the title Warrior, and I’m not really clear whether this supposed to be the English title for the movie, but the word ‘merantau’ itself doesn’t mean ‘warrior’ at all in English. In Bahasa Indonesia, ‘merantau’ is when you move from your parents’ lovely and comfy house, to a faraway places (mostly big cities) in order to get a better job, to make money, so when you return home, you could give back and repay what your parents had given to raise you and make you a decent person. The process of going away (and being far away from homeland) is called ‘merantau.’ (Seriously English, do you have words for that?) Now, the movie Merantau is also a full action movie. The storyline centers on a guy named Yuda, a guy from Minangkabau, West Sumatera, who went ‘merantau’ to the capital, Jakarta, to teach Pencak Silat to people there. That sure is such a naive and and nice goal for such a young man, but as he met another passenger in the bus on his way to Jakarta, the dream seems like too good to be true. After seeing a young beautiful girl being physically harassed on the street, Yuda ended up protecting the girl instead. Little did Yuda know at that time that the girl was actually one of the victim of human-trafficking business, led by a hot-headed European businessman, Ratger (Mads Koudal). The movie, just like The Raid, is of course, all full-action.

Merantau Movie Poster

Now, as much as I love the action as well as the beauty of the kicks, punches and the blood spattered captured magnificently by Evans, I hate to admit that I’m not a huge fan of the movie. The storyline is very simple, and quite predictable to me. But in terms of action, it blew me away. Super awesomeness.

Well, I’m not here to talk about Merantau, of course, but in one review I once read (I forgot which one, and I’m too lazy to track it back just so I could put the link. I would probably do this later), The Raid is said to be a prequel of Merantau.

It could probably make a perfect sense, especially since the main character and his estranged brother in the movie is played by the same actors in both movies, with the exact same relationship in their roles, except for the different names for both characters.

Iko Uwais

First of all, Iko Uwais’ character in The Raid: Redemption is called Rama, not Yuda. And this movie starts with the scene where Rama was waking up early, preparing himself by practicing his martial arts, and shalat (Islamic prayer) before he finally woke his pregnant wife, to say goodbye. Of course he said that he’ll be back soon.

Then we’re led to a truck where it’s filled with special cops (described as the Indonesian SWAT team) who were  preparing themselves to ambush a drug lord, Tama Riyadi (played by Ray Sahetapy), living in a 30-storey apartment, which is filled with criminals in most rooms.

Ray Sahetapy

Sneaking their way in to the apartment, they quietly kill and slay the criminals in each room, room by room, and floor by floor. It seems like everything was going really well.

Until they reached the 6th floor, where their existence is finally uncovered.

As the drug lord noticed them through one of his surveillance cameras (the building was apparently filled with cameras everywhere), he told the residents to welcome this unwanted visitors and “have fun.” The task already seems like an impossible task by then, and the future of those SWAT team seems so predictable.

The handsome Joe Taslim, who apparently is also a Judo athlete. Work that six-pack, Joe!

As already suspected by the leader of this ill-fated team, Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim), the team was actually sent for a suicide mission, being a part of a black-ops, and the backups promised to come earlier was nothing but a fake promise. They’re on their own.

As the team breaks and getting separated from each other, Rama (Iko Uwais) also needs to fight in order to survive–and to find his estranged brother, Andi (played by the charming Donny Alamsyah), who turns out is the right hand of Tama the drug lord. In order to do this, eventually he would later fight Tama’s deadly brutal and cruel hitman, known as Mad Dog (played by Yayan Ruhian, also co-coreographed the fighting in the movie with Iko himself).

Donny (also spelled as 'Doni) Alamsyah
Yayan Ruhian

Well, I’m not gonna give you any more spoiler, of course, but I hope my summary tease you enough to buy the ticket and watch the movie yourself in the theater.

Anyway, other than what I’m going to write next, the movie itself has received 3 awards internationally as well as positive critics.

I was actually worried about watching this first since I remember that I don’t really like Merantau. I don’t want this to be another cheesy, all action movie with meaningless expressions and acts. I mean, Iko Uwais (and Donny Alamsyah, hahaha) is definitely a good actor, but there’s not really much exploration in terms of storyline and acting. What he did in 90% of the movie is kick, punch, and show off his skill in Pencak Silat. And boy, isn’t he charming. It’s very obvious that Iko is definitely the man when it comes to Silat. But other than the fighting, Merantau is a cheesy romance, and towards the end of the movie, I was so bored that I immediately deleted the movie as soon as I finished watching.

But apparently, there’s not even 1% element of romance in The Raid, which probably lead to a conclusion that I may not be a huge fan of romance, really (says the woman who’ve read Amanda Scott’s Border Wedding twice and watched Ever After more than 5 times).

Anyway, as you’d probably read in most reviews (if you did read them, hopefully after watching the movie, not before), the movie is purely action, that without the action, it would probably be… super suck.

If you’re the kind of person who’s looking for a meaningful, heavily-themed, and serious movie like A Dangerous Method or Sang Penari (The Dancer), and not a fan of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or Rush Hour, you’d probably be disappointed.

But if you’re crazy about the French movie Banlieue 13 and its sequel, adore Cyril Raffaeli and can’t get enough of Jet Li, this movie is definitely for you.

The movie does reminds me a bit of Banlieue 13 with all its action and plot, although, of course, the storyline is different, along with its setting, character, and style, but I do think they both have similar theme, especially towards the ending of the movie. I’m pretty curious about the sequel already.

Which would mean that I love the movie. Of course this would probably be a contradiction, since I already stated that I don’t like meaningless movie, with cheesy romance and such. But this one does not have a bit of romance in it, and despite its full action scene from beginning to end, again, I have to applaud Gareth Evans for making all the fighting looks so breathtaking, with the detail of each movement, capturing how Rama takes down all his opponents one by one. Oh, and slow motion effects, especially when the leader, Sergeant Jaka fired his riffle is just too awesome to miss. Despite being a very violent movie, I did managed to finish my large-size popcorn throughout the movie, while at the same time, watching Rama and Mad Dog slit their opponents’ throats. Of course, watching with me, you would need to bear the swearing and cursing which I shouted almost every time someone fall, or got bombed, or stabbed brutally, or when Rama awesomely took down his opponent. I guess everybody’s adrenaline got pumped as we got too excited watching all the never ending action because one time, when Rama amazingly took down one of the bad guy so skillfully, the audience around me were clapping their hands, applauding Iko’s mastery in his Silat. A guy sitting next to me was watching the movie with his peers, and he kept praising Iko’s skills, commenting his expertise on Silat with awe.

I do agree with one review I read which says that other than the action, one irrational thing about the movie, more specifically about the main character Rama, is the unrealistic stamina he has. I mean, Rama has been kicked, thrown, punched, despite punching and kicking himself, and fallen down several stories down out the window before landing on a kind of balcony thingy on a lower floor, yet he never seem to show exhaustion or tiredness and still managed to fight till the very end of the movie. I remember the same thing also happen in the movie Merantau. I mean, I know that this tireless trait is one thing that we are always looking for in every hero of martial arts movie. It’s what we always look for in legends such a Bruce Lee, Jet Li, or even the manga character Chinmi from Kung-Fu Boy. But even such legends never seem to own this trait. At some point, they would lose their power and energy, after fighting non-stop for quite a long time. Yet Rama (and Yuda in Merantau) appears to be some kind of superhuman with limitless energy. This might be something to think about for Gareth Evans for the next two sequels. Of course, the chance of him reading this is very little, but I’m hoping to see more of the storyline, and more down-to-earth, weakness, human-alike character for Rama in the so-called sequel, Berandal (meaning ‘thugs/brat’ in English).

Pierre Gruno

Another thing, perhaps, is the contradiction I found as the head of the operation, Lieutenant Wahyu (played by Pierre Gruno) complained to Sergeant Jaka for bringing rookie officers for such a dangerous operation (which is confusing–I mean, who would ever take rookies for that risky business? At the same time, it seems make sense since the operation is indeed, a suicide mission).

…but probably my Indonesian pride also created some biased arguments here, and perhaps explains why I really like this movie, because… it’s an Indonesian movie, for crying out loud! (Says the woman whose movie list is actually filled with Hollywood movies–oh, but I’ve been putting some Indonesian movies as well now.) Whichever it is, I’ve been considering to watch it for the second time. Perhaps this time, anyone would like to come with me?

Lobakan: Antologi Cerita Pendek (Kesenyapan Gemuruh Bali ’65)

I have no idea what ‘Lobakan’ means. I’ve checked both Google and Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian Dictionary) and found nothing about the word, but the words after the colon mean: “A compilation of short stories (The silenced thunderstorm of Bali in ’65).” The number 65 at the end of the title there refers to the year of 1965.

That is the title of the book that I just read.

*edited March 20, 2012 – Just found out from my grandpa that Lobakan is actually a Balinese term for lamp–the old, ancient, petromax lantern. (Doh, I’m such a fake Balinese!)

So, back in December, my grandpa gave me this book Lobakan after I shared with him my interest and findings on one of the darkest history of Indonesia about the PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia/The Communist Party of Indonesia). After getting enough courage to finally asked him about the incident, my grandpa decided to give me this book ‘if I’m interested.’ (He’s gotta be joking. Of course I’m interested!)

Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a bit of background information based on my findings:

Soekarno, the first president of Indonesia, once proposed a political concept called as ‘Nasakom,’ which literally is an abbreviation of three words: ‘Nasionalisme’ (nationalism), ‘Agama’ (religion), and ‘Komunisme’ (Communism). This is the notion invented by Soekarno as a part of his vision to unite three big political parties existed in Indonesia at that time–PNI (Partai Nasional Indonesia/Indonesian National Party), Islamic parties which were divided into two parties at that time: Masyumi (Partai Majelis Syuro Muslimin Indonesia/Council of Indonesian Muslim Associations) and NU (Nahdlatul Ulama–a traditionalist Sunni Islam group), and PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia/The Communist Party of Indonesia)–in order to create harmonies between the three, and hence: peace amongst society.

By 1965, the member of the communist party had rapidly increased to 3 million people, and this worried the other 2 parties. Negative sentiments against Soekarno also grew as he supported and protected PKI, along with his ideology as it’s similar with his own.

Long story made short, the tension finally broke by September 30, 1965 as a movement called the 30 September Movement kidnapped several Indonesian war heroes in the army and killed them. Hence, General Soeharto (later the 2nd president of Indonesia) took control and provoked massacre of those known or suspected as “communist allies.” As the army publicly announced that the communists had killed Indonesian respected war heroes to encourage and approve the killings (of the PKI partisans), the Islamic forces did the same thing as they labeled those “communists” as atheists–a word that does not make any sense to most Indonesians, even until now, as Indonesia is not an “atheist country.”

Today it is speculated that the movement was actually a coup d’etat provoked by Soeharto and his army friends, backed by the CIA as they were afraid that Indonesia would become a strong ally to the communist (remember the Cold War?) and the PKI and its “allies” were merely victims of false accusations.

Of course, I might get this wrong, so feel free to correct me.

Here are the links to the sources (most of them, of course, will be Wikipedia):

*

Okay, enough about history. As my old man put it, “History is about perspective. The more you read, the more you find out.” Well said, grandpa!

Now, aside from the fact of who actually did what, or who was the bad guy, or even who was right or wrong, the thing is that the massacre killed a lot of innocent people. The army encouraged citizens to kill their neighbors, friends, and even family members without trial. And those were the people who might not even know what on earth PKI actually was. Most of them were actually those who merely hired to entertain the actual PKI members in one of their events/propagandas, or hired as a guard during a PKI meeting, and these people are poor peasants who, even if they actually owned the land or the field they were working on, they were really poor that eating rice was considered a luxury for them. Worse, they could even be poor farmers who didn’t even own a land, and merely working on a landowner’s land and gained almost nothing as a result of their hard work. Uneducated people, already suffered, and then suddenly stabbed or even tortured for reasons unknown to them.

Meanwhile, the religious parties (those who does not want to be associated with atheists) also made propaganda as they identify all communist partisans as atheists. They used folklore, myth, legend, belief, and they toyed with people’s faith to encourage the killings. They believed (and I am not referring to a specific kind of religion here because this includes all kinds of religion existed in Indonesia at that time) that killing communists was a religious duty. I am not a big fan of religion so of course I mock this idea. Were I lived during that time, I would definitely be assassinated.

Many believe that at least half a million people died during that time. In one article I read, people were getting used to seeing tons of dead bodies in the river, floating from one village to another village, spreading awful smells of rotten corpses. “No one wanted to risk coming out of the house,” said my grandpa. If I had not mistaken, the biggest killing happened in either East Java and Central Java or Bali, where they said that it was one step closer to become an anarchy.

These are the stories I read in Lobakan. All of them are, of course, fictionalized, because, as I read in the foreword, most of the victims interviewed (or talked to) tried so hard to erase those tragic events from their memories that most of them tried to deflect or even talked about something irrelevant instead of retelling the truth. In the end, no one actually ever find out what actually happened, and I doubt anyone will ever do.

One of my favorite stories is titled Monolog (Monologue), by Putu Fajar Arcana. It contains a speech of one of the victim of the massacre, who told his story of how he got involved with the PKI (although it is not explicitly stated whether he realized and fully acknowledged PKI at all) and later caught and killed. He said he came from a very poor family, whose field were taken by landowners and later were forced into a huge amount of debt by those landowners where in the end they had to work on the land they were supposed to own. The PKI held meetings talking about possibilities to get their land back, and as a poor peasant, how could they say no? The idea alone already seemed like ‘water from the moon’ (meaning impossible) to them. Later, of course, it costed him his life.

Another favorites are Warisan (Legacy) by Putu Satria Kusuma and Menanti Tantri (Waiting for Tantri) by Soeprijadi Tomodiharjo. The first one tells a story about Wayan Guru who was suspected as a PKI partisan and were hiding at his parents’ house while many people were waiting in front of the house, ready to ambush and slay him. His parents told the masses that Wayan Guru was away in Java, yet they waited. At the same time, Wayan Guru begged to see his son, Kadek, who stayed with his wife in his house near his parents’. He was determined to see Kadek, even if it would cost him his life, but his parents asked him to think it through, because death means missing his son’s 3 months ceremony, as well as watching him growing up.

The latter, Menanti Tantri tells a story about Made Arka Wiratma, an activist in fighting against illiteracy, who got a visit from a respectable figure: The governor of Bali, when he was lying sick on a hospital bed, suffering from malaria. His wife who accompanied him at that time was pregnant with his son. The governor suggested to name the unborn child Rai, taken from Balinese war hero: I Gusti Ngurah Rai. To them the visit was such a great honor. Little did they know that the governor was a leftist, and hence, a PKI partisan, as well as what the visit would cost them later.

What’s ironic is how I Gusti Agung Ayu Ratih put it in the foreword about how the government seemed so easily dismissed the tragedy and instead polished the so-called “The island of the gods” with monuments, malls, hotels and clubs to attract investors and tourists from around the world by making the native of this “island of gods” to work (I actually intent to use the work “slavery”) for these visitors who’d see Bali as, indeed, their “heaven on earth.” Try ask the people whether they think it’s a heaven on earth to them.

*

What? You didn’t expect me to write the complete stories as well as all of the short stories included, right? That wouldn’t be fair to the writers (says the person whose life is devoted to download free stuffs). >:D

I owe my grandpa for willing to give and share this with me, and I love the inscription he wrote on the first page of the book (I always love inscriptions on the first page of my book!) for me: