SILAT WARRIORS: DEED OF DEATH: Wait For It (Blu-ray Review)

A Malaysian fight film sticks the landing

The titular deed is a literal one.

Good for nothing Mat Arip (Fad Anuar) is a bumbling gambler who has taken the paper deed to his father’s home and put it up for collateral in one of his street races. The resulting chaos threatens the lives of his father and siblings, Fatimah (Feiyna Tajudin) and Ali (Khoharullah Majid). It’s these three siblings who make up our Silat Warriors, and it’s Fatimah and Ali we’ll be the most interested in paying attention to. Unfortunately, the film spends most of its time with Mat Arip instead.

Extremely low on compelling plot, Silat Warriors is largely just a bunch of fairly low stakes battles between street thugs and our protagonist siblings as they battle to protect their father’s home and property. Perhaps the most delightful and surprising component of Silat Warriors is when Fatimah, a devout Muslim woman complete with head covering, starts taking thugs out left and right with her remarkable martial arts acumen. It’s a reveal that happens early in the film and Fatimah gets a few battles throughout the movie. But unfortunately this isn’t Fatimah’s film, so she recedes into the background and while she comes out swinging early on, she wraps this film up with a whimper. Mat Arip takes up lots of the screen time here and he and his bumbling comic relief sidekick may be the impetus for most of the plotting, but they’re annoying and hard to root for in any way. It’s Ali (who mostly lays low throughout the bulk of the film’s run time and feels largely aloof from the meager story being told) who ends up taking center stage in act three. Khoharullah acquits himself quite well in terms of the massive martial arts payoff.

The final third of Silat Warriors: Deed Of Death makes the film worth the price of admission. It’s a relentless action set piece that entertains and rewards your patience for wading through the rest of it. That said, from a narrative perspective, it probably would have helped if Ali had been the main character all along, so it didn’t just feel like a fight for the sake of the genre the film fits into, but rather a compelling need for this character to shed his devout and pious ways to kick ass.

I’ve been a bit floundering as an action fan in 2021 thus far. South Korea’s The Swordsman absolutely blew my mind early on and likely still holds the top slot as the best action film of the year thus far. Silat Warriors ultimately ranks as an action film that I did enjoy. And that final act does put it over the edge as a solid showcase for Malaysian action cinema. But this isn’t some kind of breakout revelation (beyond Feiynah Tajudin) either. I would have absolutely loved to have been swept up into a compelling dramatic narrative in the way that I was by, say, Vietnam’s Furie, in order to be jumping out of my seat in excitement at the finale. Instead I was more intellectually appreciative of a strong final fight delivered by writer/director/cinematographer/producer Areel Abu Bakar. This appears to be Bakar’s directorial debut despite many cinematography credits, so perhaps this will be Bakar’s Merentau (a solid martial arts film from star/director combo Iko Uwais and Gareth Evans who next went on to change the world with The Raid) and his next project will deliver something that takes Malaysian action cinema to the next level.

The Package

The more time goes on, the more I appreciate physical media and find myself in an ever shrinking niche in that regard. So on one hand, I’m extremely grateful Well Go USA has given this film a Blu-ray release. On the other hand, it’s absolutely bare bones (and the cinematography, which often utilizes Go Pro footage, doesn’t even result in an aesthetically gorgeous movie). And Well Go USA is clearly looking to steer people towards their streaming platform Hi-Yah. I can’t blame them, necessarily, as physical media releases become more expensive and have a shrinking consumer base. But there’s nothing to this disc beyond the ability to physically own it that demands a purchase when this title can be streamed on Hi-Yah.

And I’m Out.

[PS: Don’t miss our very own V.N. Pryor’s much more energetic take on this film back when it was titled Geran and played at the 2020 New York Asian Film Festival]

Silat Warriors: Deed Of Death is now streaming on Hi-YAH! and hits Digital/Blu-ray/DVD from Well Go USA on July 6th, 2021.

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