Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here.
Khaliff (Aaron Aziz) has returned to his home village after seven years away with the military. It’s no pleasant homecoming though as he arrives after his father is murdered by a group of thugs and his sister has been kidnapped. What’s an angry young man with elite military training to do?
He begins investigating both crimes – a step the local authorities seem unwilling to take – and discovers a world of small town corruption, organized crime and sex slavery. With the help of a peppy cab driver and the woman Khaliff loved and left behind seven years ago he goes looking for his sister with both fists (and feet) flying.
It’s never a good sign when you watch an action movie and think to yourself, with no exaggeration, “I could do that.” This is especially the case if you’re a movie blogger. The new Malaysian film, The Run (aka Lari), is just such an example though as it’s an action film with utterly unimpressive action. This leaves a familiar and simple plot to hold the movie up, but the execution there is equally inept.
We’ll get to the action (for lack of a better word) shortly, but first the film’s script and story need a few moments worth of attention. I guarantee that’s more thought than the filmmakers gave it.
The film opens with Khaliff infiltrating the bad guys’ warehouse where young women are being held in a cage in between time spent servicing clients with sex. He looks around, doesn’t find who he’s looking for and leaves. He makes no attempt to rescue or release these women. At this point we flash back to his arrival in town for his father’s funeral where he learns about his sister’s disappearance. There’s no rule that says a film hero must be “good” enough to help anyone in need, and it would have been a refreshing change of pace to see a hero with moral gray areas, but Khaliff is presented as a pure and honorable man meaning the script simply neglects to have its hero think beyond the stated goal of finding his sister. And don’t get me started on the nice cafe owner whose place Khaliff destroys after being insulted by two guys.
Equally egregious is the film’s over-reliance on flashbacks. No joke, half the film consists of flashbacks. And it’s not just Khaliff having them. There are flashbacks within flashbacks, his sister gets one and even one of the big villains is given an opportunity to pause, look up and fade into a flashback. Worse, these scenes are almost entirely filler meant to heighten non-existent drama or give depth to paper-thin characters.
I could go on about the script inconsistencies, how useless the film’s women are and how the score is so obvious that you could follow the movie perfectly without a word of dialogue, but it’s time to talk action.
Aziz has some acrobatic skills, of this there is no doubt, but they’re used in place of anything resembling fun or impressive fight choreography. He somersaults when no one’s looking, he jumps over knee-high boxes with unnecessary flips and even the simplest jumps – the kind I’m doing right now as I type this – are shown in slow motion and accompanied by “whoosh” sounds. The actual fight scenes are equally underwhelming as the fighters are fairly slow, are clearly pausing for the next choreographed move and often have visible protective pads beneath their shirts. When guns are used they’re essentially treated like knives as the bad guys feel compelled to repeatedly bring the weapon within inches of Khaliff’s body thus allowing him to disarm them with a whoosh. Editing is an important tool in even the best action sequences, but here it’s used exclusively to try and create excitement and skill that just isn’t there.
The Run isn’t all bad – there’s a visually impressive battle between several guys with burning sticks, and the Malaysian countryside is gorgeous – but there’s nothing here to really recommend it.
The Upside: Some unintentional laughs; a couple good hits
The Downside: Action is unimpressive and uninteresting; loaded with filler; flashbacks are non-stop and usually unnecessary; dialogue not good; our hero gives not one shit about the dozens of other sex slaves being held prisoner
On the Side: The Run, also known as Lari in its native country, is one of two films Ahmad Idham directed in 2013. It was a slow year for him apparently as he directed five feature films in 2012 and seven in 2010.