Director: Mike Wiluan
Cast: Ario Bayu, Yoshi Sudarso, Pevita Pearce, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Zack Lee, Conan Stevens, Reinout Bussemaker, Sunny Pang
Runtime: 1 hr 42 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 6 September 2018
Synopsis: In 19th Century Java, a brutal massacre and the murder of Sultan Hamza by Captain Van Trach (Reinout Bussemaker) and his Dutch soldiers force Arana (Tio Pakusadewo), Jamar (Ario Bayu) and Suwo (Yoshi Sudarso) - the sultan's brother and infant sons - to flee the country, bringing them halfway around the world to the American Wild Wild West. After working the railroads and learning the cowboy way of life, Arana tells the boys it's time to return to their homeland and avenge their father's death. Back on Indonesian soil, the hunt for their father's killer begins. Along the way, they meet some villagers including Kiona (Pevita Pearce), the rebellious and beautiful headman's daughter who Suwo falls for, and soon find out that the treacherous Van Trach still rules the area. Their presence puts the village in danger, quickly turning their quest for revenge into a fight for freedom. With the odds stacked against them, Arana, Jamar and Suwo use the skills they learned from the wilds of America to face Van Trach and his army in a showdown for justice.
The western genre is practically dead in Hollywood except Quentin Tarantino’s brief revival in Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight and Gore Verbinski’s very underrated The Lone Ranger. Thus it’s very much a surprise when a movie liked Buffalo Boys is co-produced by our very own Infinite Studios (Headshot, Halfworlds) and acclaimed art film director Eric Khoo.
Buffalo Boys puts a spin on the western genre, combining spaghetti western and Asia history in this case Indonesia during the Dutch colonial times. It’s essentially a simple tale of revenge but by turning the entire setting into a reimagined Wild West, this Mike Wiluan’s directorial debut becomes a delightful main dish from start to end. Like they say, revenge is a dish best served cold.
Together with their uncle (Tio Pakusadewo), two brothers Jamar (Ario Bayu) and Suwo (Yoshi Sudarso) finally returned home to Indonesia after living in exile in California. It turned out that Jamar and Suwo are offsprings of a deceased Sultan who was mercilessly killed by a cruel coloniser, Van Trach (Reinout Bussemaker) years ago. Witnessing Van Trach’s wicked grip on the local communities liked forcing them to produce opium or risk burning to death, the brothers set out on their revenge mission on Van Trach and his bunch of equally detestable henchmen before they ride off once again into the sunset.
With dialogue in a mixture of Bahasa Indonesia and English, Buffalo Boys is in no way inferior to the cowboy flicks of the past. Although we must point out that it’s inexcusable for Wiluan to introduce a heroine/love interest (played by Pevita Pearce) who is a splendid archer and ride on buffalos only to have her as a damsel in distress for most of the screen time. In terms of story, the plotline is accessible to anyone who grows up on all the martial-arts revenge flicks which Shaw Bros frequently produced in their heydays. Frankly speaking, the screenplay by Wiluan and Raymond Lee is mainly an excuse to stage some bloody well-choreographed fights between the good and evil forces so don’t blame on foreign languages to skip this.
Yet even with a story that clocked no surprises and features a one-dimensional villain, Buffalo Boys shines in its generous display of more than decent action set pieces and martial-arts from anything to shotguns, swordplay to a bloody saloon brawl and a gunslinger climatic showdown, the perfect nods to the western genre. On yet another fun side, local actor Sunny Pang (Code of Law) cameos as a one-armed henchman of Van Trach with apparently not a single word utter throughout. Actor and stuntman Yoshi Sudarso pairs off perfectly with Ario Bayu to deliver dazzling chemistry and charm while fans of The Raid 2 and Headshot no doubt will be able to spot familiar faces liked Zach Lee and Alex Abbad in the flick as well.
The lush cinematography by Australian John Radel lends magnitude to the handsome and rich production design despite the obvious limited budget. Instead of an arty drama, Singapore has selected Buffalo Boys to be submitted to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Fingers crossed. Given the less than stellar marketing campaign and measly screenings, it might be a tad hard for movie-goers to notice a movie liked Buffalo Boys but given the time and choice, we strongly advise you to check it out.
(A terrific and eclectic mix of spaghetti western and martial-arts, Buffalo Boys is an enjoyable action flick for the masses!)
Review by Linus Tee