Fantasia 2014 Review: THE RUN Strikes Familiar Chords With Fists And Knees
It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Then baby, let me tell you Malaysian action flick The Run is flattering a whole lot of folks from other parts of Asia.
When Khaliff (Aaron Aziz) returns to his native village for his father's funeral, it doesn't take him long to realize that things have changed. The former soldier, however, is not done being surprised. A family friend informs him that his sister is missing and his father was murdered, quickly establishing that the quiet little village he left years ago for his tour of duty has turned into a hot spot of criminal activity.
Writer and director Ahmad Idham borrows heavily from other powerhouse nations and one-time leaders of the Asian action cinema scene. Taking his favorite bits primarily from HK and Thailand action films Idham weaves them all together with his straightforward story and puts some Malaysian flavor into the mix. He has not done anything differently with the hallmarks of those regions. He has essentially made a Greatest Hits record doing the lyrics in Malay.
There is plenty of hand to hand combat. Idham incorporated a bit of free running into his foot chase scenes. He tips his hat to John Woo in the climactic battle with a good old Mexican standoff. The gunfight at the end is lethal even if Khaliff forgot those extra clips at home. There were four on the bed, Khaliff! Some soldier you turned out to be. Idham does not do much with the car chase at the end off his flick but it is evident that folks in Malaysia are pretty negligent at keeping combustible fluids like fuel in their proper storage containers like gas cans and car gas tanks. I am always game for running away from a big fireball explosion.
I have always been upfront about how I like my action captured on screen. I like long takes and the camera pulled back so when I am watching martial arts I can appreciate the art as much as I appreciate the martial side of it. Idham and his editor may have gone through a couple of editing bays worth of equipment chopping his action scenes to lengths of nano-seconds. It is almost difficult to tell if he even has it framed well enough, the cuts are so frequent. So on that end it was a wee bit frustrating.
And then there are the typical nuances of Asian cinema that fans will identify with. The acting is just a couple notches shy of excessive sometimes. Khaliff's sister is cutesy tootsie most of the time. Khaliff's buddy is a wise-cracking taxi driver who you do not know he is his friend for minutes after he rescues him from an attack at a train station. Wait-a-minute. How does he know his name? Minutes later. Oh, they are friends?
And then there are these wonderful musical cues that serve as indicators on how you should be responding to the following scene. They last about 30 seconds but you know from their tone that something bad is going down, or someone is still in love with someone else after all these years, or someone is about to stare off in the distance for a contemplative minute.
What you get with the The Run is an ambitious action flick that strikes familiar chords. It certainly does not feel amateurish and is quite polished. There is no denying that Ahmad Idham's lead, Singaporean actor Aaron Aziz, is a physical presence on screen and appears to know how to fight. For a man approaching middle age he is still quick enough and physically capable of throwing down in the set pieces.
There appears to be enough of a foundation in Malaysia that if ever they want to step out on their own and try to experiment or create their own interpretation of action cinema the results could be impressive. Should they find their own voice it could be heard loud and clear.
Apart from any misgivings I may have about the execution of the film The Run is still a good bit of fun. It does not break any ground or do anything that sets it apart from any film before it. But there is more than enough action to satisfy fans of action cinema from Asia.