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‘Preman: The Silent Fury’ (review)

Preman: The Silent Fury is an Indonesian action film directed by Randolph Zaini in his debut feature, and starring Khiva Iskak, Muzakki Ramdahn (Satan’s Slaves 2), and Kiki Narendra (Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash). It made the rounds as a surprise hit at Fantastic Fest last year and has been picked up by Well-Go USA for its HI-YAH streaming service, where it’s exclusively streaming right now before a Blu-ray release next week.

In the wake of Hong Kong cinema being neutered by the mainland, Indonesia has been, and forgive me dear reader if you are of the agnostic type for there is no other word to use here, a godsend for lovers of Asian action and horror: Merantau, Killers, Macabre, The Raid, Let the Devil Take You, Headshot, Vengeance is Mine…, and the twin-tiered crown jewels: The Raid 2 and The Night Comes for Us. Those last two are the reigning, defending, undisputed ass kicking martial arts movie champions of the world right now and there are no challengers on the horizon.

All of that is to say, when my editor hands me a screener for a new Indonesian action movie, the blood starts to quicken.

Preman is not the revolutionary force of the other movies I have evoked. It is a solid double knocked between fielders and into the gap, and not the home run I was hoping for.

That said, this is another excellent thriller with hyper violent touches that will speak to lovers of cinematic mayhem: Iskak plays a deaf gangster whose son (Ramdahn, doing well for a child actor) witnesses a brutal gangland slaying by a flamboyant Triad leader (Narendra). The Triads do their level best to make the boy dead, and Iskak employs a small metal ball on a chain in an attempt to dissuade them of this notion.

That’s it. That’s all there is to the plot on a mechanical level.

The devil, dear reader, is in the details in both senses of that oft-used expression. Preman employs a flashback structure that needlessly bogs down its already overlong first act. For a ninety-minute film, this thing feels flabbier than Narendra’s character’s 400 pound underboss. It comes out of the box like a horse who has never run a race before: timid, unsure of itself.

All that changes when Ramon the Barber is introduced.

Sometimes in a film, you get a character who you wish the entire film was about. Ramon the Barber (played with enormous gusto by Revaldo, the coke-dealing butcher-killer from The Night Comes for Us) is such a character. He saunters into the film like a new Batman villain, reconstructs our hero’s escape from the evidence available, kills a disrespectful subordinate, and has the show stopping fight of the film in a twenty minute span. This man added a star to the final rating by himself, and every second he was on film I could feel the old Indonesian magic coming out. He carries a demented, maniacal, energy all his own to bat for this picture.

Your final verdict on Preman should be informed by expectations: this is a slow burn, not a fight showcase, and it is far more interested in the idiosyncrasies of its characters than it is in mind-blowing choreography and buckets of blood. Now this is a well-acted picture and Iskak, in particular, is extremely convincing as the deaf protagonist, but I must confess that I felt let down by the action. A couple of points in the film it felt like the movie was going to cut loose completely only for things to stop and start building again. I suppose I could say honestly that I was left wanting more.

That said, if you get the chance to see this picture it is certainly worth watching. Seldom have you seen a film’s energy so drastically changed by one supporting character as this one’s by Ramon, but know that you’re in the game to have a cheerful ninety minutes– not to have your mind blown.

That will have to wait for Iko Uwais’ next picture, it seems.

3 out of 5 stars.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Ryan Ricardo
Written and Directed by Randolph Zaini
Starring Khiva Iskak, Muzakki Ramdhan, Kiki Narendra, Salvita De Corte,
Putri Ayudya, Egi Fedly, Gilbert Pattiruhu, Paul Agusta, Emil Kusumo


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