Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Warrior (1981)

aka Jaka Sembung

Indonesia is plagued by the colonial reign of terror of the Dutch. The Dutch governor (played by an actor who looks decidedly Indonesian) is your typical mad sadist, whom even his own daughter Maria fears.

The only ones working against the oppressors are the heroic and pious magical martial arts hero Jaka Sembung (Barry Prima) and his merry band of rebels, who we'll never witness doing much rebelling.

At the beginning of the film, Jaka is already in Dutch hands, but escapes on his way to a penal colony. He hides away in a village somewhere in the jungle, and the colonial oppressors have a hard time finding him. The Dutch think it best to hire local talent to catch their enemy, and proceed to grab the first evil magical martial arts guy they can find for the job. He's big, he's strong, he's impervious to bullets and he spits fire, yet he still is no match for the rebel's superior jumping technique.

The Dutch's next plan is a little better. They hire a black magician with really bad teeth to reunite the head and body of another black magician. The newly revived bad guy - himself an old enemy of Jaka's, it seems - then proceeds to beat our hero thoroughly.

Afterwards, Jaka is jailed, nailed to a wall and his eyes are poked out as if this were a Lucio Fulci film.

But all is not lost for the oppressed people of Indonesia. No, they're not going to, you know, actually rebel.

Instead, Sirta, one single heroic woman from the rebel team with a crush on Jaka, sneaks into the Dutch prison to free her crushee. The blind hero uses the opportunity to bend some steel bars and do Hercules impressions, but is shortly thereafter turned into a pig.

Fortunately, even that is only a minor set-back for him.

The Warrior is a very typical Barry Prima vehicle directed by Sisworo Gautama Putra who made quite a few films in this style (and some black magic movies with Suzzanna). The film is structured in a classic "one damn thing after another" shape, with levitating bad guys followed by heavy-handed melodrama made even more painful by the film's bad dubbing, followed by magical eye transplantation (the eyes, they fly!), followed by rousing patriotic/religious speeches that don't make any sense as the dubbing translates them, followed by more bizarre (and slightly gory) stuff, then even more bizarre stuff, and then a totally tragic ending nobody should be able to take seriously after all the silly crap the film has already thrown at the audience.

I'm of course perfectly alright with a film mostly consisting of silly crap if and when said crap is as fantastically entertaining as it is here. You wanna see a Dutch guy levitating and rotated around his own axis? You got it. You just need to see Barry Prima with a pig's snout? No problem. You have always dreamed of watching a fight against a guy who truly can't be stopped by being hacked to pieces, like a more effective version of Monty Python's Black Knight? The Warrior's got your back. The only thing lacking is the presence of a coterie of midgets, but those guys were probably all over in the Philippines playing not-Jawas in a Cirio Santiago film about post-apocalyptic race car drivers.

Sure, some might say the film is lacking in characterisation, and that its plot line seems rather jumpy and a wee bit illogical, with a decided lack of connection between its scenes or basic human sanity. They'd be right with that, like people without a heart sometimes are. To these soulless people I'd reply with "this movie has flying eyes in it", which is the sort of thing that must end any discussion about characterisation and other useless stuff forever, much like bringing up Hitler in an Internet discussion. Let's just face it, it is an irrefutable fact that The Warrior is the best film ever made.

If you don't believe me, let me just add this: The Warrior kills off its odious comic relief in an odiously unfunny fight scene, as every other film containing such a character should do, yet none ever does. Oh, and there are at least two sequels to look forward to.


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