Dear Gareth Evans,
What can I say — this little violent action movie you made in Indonesia is simply remarkable. Perfect in every way. There is not much I can add to the legion of fan boys who have already drooled over your masterpiece, so instead I’ll highlight some random thoughts in the spirit of one of my favorite movie reviewers, Steve Sailer (those are his more recent ones, go to his website for his older ones and go here for his philosophy of movie reviewing)…
First of all, it should be said up front that you do a great job of showcasing the Indonesian form of martial arts known as Silat — your star Iko Uwais should become just as popular as Tony Jaa did showcasing Muay Thai in his films from Thailand. I like how you use nice wide shots to give us a sense of what the heck is going on, unlike a lot of recent American action films which rely too much on quick edits and close-ups (I’m talking to you Mr. Nolan) so it becomes hard to follow the fight action.
Secondly, it was interesting to watch Iko, the hero cop of the movie, pray at the beginning as a devout Muslim. Many (most?) Americans don’t realize Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country and yet thankfully, they generally seem to be of the less fanatic variety. [Side note — less fanatic does not mean they are free of fanatics, as the famous Bali nightclub bombing attests to as well as more recent aggression from the “religion of peace”. But there are some intellectuals who are doing their best to promote a more tolerant form of Islam and I wish them the best.]
Third, you got the guy from Linkin Park to do your soundtrack and it sounds amazing — in a way, it was one of the stars of the film as it helped propel the action along in a way that was effective but not too intrusive. Way to go Mr. Shinoda!
Finally, it is interesting to think about the ethnicity/race of the Indonesians. They look Asian of course, but not surprisingly, they look more like their Philippine neighbors than the ethnic Chinese who make up roughly 3-4% of the population. La Wik suggests that many Indonesian people are of Austronesian origin, with a smaller contingent of Melanesian people in the eastern islands. Whenever I think about these issues, I turn to Razib over at Gene Expression, and I noticed that he has done a recent post on the Indonesian cline — of particular interest to me were the comments in the post about the “Papuans/Negritos” west of Papua New Guinea. As one of the commenters suggests, I think you do tend to notice the occasional darker skinned Southeast Asian whenever you see a group of Filipinos or in the case at hand, Indonesians. For example, the villain “Mad Dog” in the movie (he’s the guy on the right) probably has some “negrito” genes at work in his ancestry. It is interesting to think about genes and race issues in the context of another country so you don’t have the baggage of the history of racial issues in our country weighing the discussion down.
So great job Mr. Evans and I hope my readers enjoyed this rambling discussion of your film and some thoughts inspired by the film.