NOW we’re talking. I have to admit I did love starting this festival on a slow and subtle note, but I’ve been waiting for the first bang to hit and I’m happy to say Indonesia and Singapore get my admiration with this film. Inspired by the classic westerns of old, director Mike Wiluan has crafted his first feature film in a tale of violence and revenge. Welcome to Fantasia, sir!
Buffalo Boys gives us the tale of Jawar (Ario Bayu) and Suwo (Yoshi Sudarsu), two boys saved from death as their father and uncle were being pursued by the evil forces of Van Trach (Rainout Bussemaker), a Dutch colonialist. Their father murdered, uncle Arana (Tio Pakusadewo) takes the boys to the US and raises them in California among cowboys and gunslingers. Years pass and the boys have grown up to be men. Time to go back to seek justice. Or revenge. Actually, it’s mostly justice but revenge kinda creeps up in there.
Van Trach has not been idle. He has laid siege to the land and has a cadre of hoodlums scouring the land doing his bidding. It’s interesting that the director mention how this character is an amalgam of several historical villains and how he considers what he does is actually milder than what history tells us. Killing, raping, branding people with his mark. Branding a child with his initials… You will want this guy to bite the big one in a very bad way.
Also along for the ride is Kiona (Pevita Pearce) who plays a rather independent and self-taught rider of buffalos as well as a mean archer. She’s a bit underused in this role, although she has a couple of kick-ass scenes. I felt that Kiona could’ve had a bigger role, she was a character with more potential than your typical love interest.
In the end, the movie shines more as we build up the crimes of Van Trach enough and we let the boys arm up for the movie’s payback: a showdown with everything thrown at it, from machetes to axes to the biggest and baddest guns you’ve seen. Actually, that anybody’s seen, the director himself confessed that weapons had to be made from scratch.
Highly recommended for Fantasia fans who’re itching for a revenge history with heroes and villains of high caliber. I have but a few objections regarding style. The two brothers’ have good chemistry and their sibling rivalry sometimes clashes with the more serious tone of what’s happening around them. The movie tries to build up suspense by making us wait, but I seriously questioned the pace at which the brothers finally take up arms. What are we waiting for? That being said, the payout comes out in spades in an all out climatic ending. The start of a legend indeed, and one that could merit a sequel.
That will do for now.