Okay, martial arts fans, here's one for you. Word got out that writer-director Gareth Huw Evans was re-teaming with his Merantau
star Iko Uwais for an upcoming project when that film - titled Berandal
- was accepted into the NAFF co-production market running in parallel with the PiFan festival in Korea. Though the film is still months away from production we've got a first look for you including the key art to the left, the official synopsis and - best of all - a proof of concept video shot in a single day a few months ago to who off the tone of the film. Before really kicking off, I should say in the interest of full disclosure that I'm a producer on this, which is why I've got access to all of this stuff. Let's start with the synopsis:
Rama, a young man in his mid-20s sits on a toilet looking down at his feet contemplating just how he got here, just how he ended up wearing that prison uniform and just how his name ended up just a string of numbers printed onto his pocket. Once a food stall seller, an act of defense cost him his freedom, his liberty and the love of his fiancé Dwi.
Detained for 5 years after leaving her attacker paralysed in a fit of rage, Rama arrives in a maximum-security prison alone and not accustomed to the criminal world. Instantly a target for the gangs that fight against each other for supremacy and control he is taken in by Uco, the son of a leading gangster, Bangun.
Initially at war with each other, their friendship is sealed after an attempt on Uco's life by his own men during a prison riot sees Rama step in and save him from certain death. Vowing to be there for him when he is finally released, five years later, after serving his time, the gates open and Rama steps out into a new life taken in by Uco's underworld organisation.
Igniting Uco's ambition Bejo, a small-time hood leader with plans of up scaling his operations seizes the opportunity to convince this headstrong son that now is the time for him to assume control of his father's organization. Controlling him like a puppet in a downward spiral of murder, betrayal and corruption Rama's friendship to Uco is tested to breaking point as their paths begin to drift.
Losing sight of loyalty, friendship even blood ties Uco is consumed by his increasing power as he creates a gang war taking out his Father's most trusted men and pinning the blame on their rivals. A choice must be made between the power on the throne, or its reckless inheritor. Every move Rama makes will test his loyalty, every decision will change his path leading him further into the violence and bloodshed he is so desperate, yet so powerless to escape.
So, the first thing you should notice here is that the tone is going to be entirely different from Merantau
. Where the first film was a family drama that evolved into a full out martial arts spectacle this one starts right off as a prison gang movie. Expect two major fight sequences within the first ten minutes, much more varied environments, a great use of weapons, and a whole lot more blood. There will still be attention paid to character but this one is designed to be a full on action film from start to finish.
Second, the key art. The tonal difference is obvious right away there, too, and most important is how different Uwais - so baby faced in Merantau
- looks now. They've had him in the gym bulking up his upper body and shaved his head. The difference is so dramatic that when Evans sent me some choreography walk through videos a few weeks back - Uwais and co-star Yayan Ruhian (Eric in Merantau
) going through things at about half speed - I honestly didn't recognize Uwais at first. Ruhian looks totally different these days, too.
And now the proof of concept video. Again, this was shot in a single day with minimal budget just to show the tone of the piece, so it's not fully polished. It's also important to note that it was done before Uwais shaved his head and began his training regimen in earnest so he still looks pretty much the same way he did in Merantau
. None of this footage will be included in the finished film but we thought you might enjoy a little taste. The scene included is from almost the very beginning of the film. You'll recognize it from the synopsis.