The fights get steadily better, the longer you stick with “Silat Warriors: Deed of Death,” a “steal my land, get your ass kicked” martial arts movie from Malaysia.
The walk-through choreography, sometimes disguised through slow motion, sometimes sped-up, is abandoned and the throw-downs grow more violent and more impressive. Sure, you can still see stunt-villains jumping into the “blow” so that they land in the right (not paralyzing) spot, and even at full speed, we can make out the moves, the delicate dance that stars and their fight partners pirouette through.
Your level of enjoyment of Areel Abu Bakar’s film is predetermined by how much you enjoy little snippets of exotic scenery (and plenty of ugly rice paddy ditches, back alleys, etc) and your tolerance for the tedium that precedes the “Brawl in the Bus,” “Melee in the Market,” “Duel on the Docks” and “Fight to the (not quite) Death in the Factory.”
Mat Arip (Fad Anuar) is the Profligate-not-Prodigal son of his family, a compulsive gambler who has wagered the deed to the family home and paddies on some off-the-books MMA match. And now the moneylender Haji Daud’s minions (most not mentioned by name) have come to collect.
Fatima (Feiyna Tajudin), his sister, is furious at the indulgence their father (Namron) shows this wastrel. Brother Ali (Khoharullah Majid) isn’t keen on it, either. When the first collectors show up, they say they “come in peace.” Then they start something.
Outspoken Fatima, the life spark of the movie, isn’t having it. “Come in peace, ,my ASS!” (in Malay with English subtitles). She proceeds to beat their asses and, like the demure unmarried Muslim woman she is, taunt them about “beating your ass.”
The movie then proceeds to lose track of Fatima, and delay Ali introduction to the fisticuffs. Both Majid and Tajudin are professional martial artists, and the movie is less interesting in their absence.
Instead, we pick up on how Mat Arip is pretty fast with his fists, too. He and his mouthy lump of a friend Mi (Salehuddin Abu Bakar) get into more and more trouble, laughing and fighting their way out. But there’s no getting around the fact that Haji Daud is fixing the fights they bet on, and his family is cheating in the tuner-Toyota races he gets into.
There’s a “We lose, get lost” and “We win, PAY up” bad-guy dynamic here. Mat Arip is too compulsive to resist even the rigged contests.
Meanwhile, Ali is getting counseled by family friends and his Imam about leaving it all “up to Allah,” and learning that “people do not know that which is not seen.”
If you stream this, the real action — after Fatima’s first butt-whupping — starts 70 minutes in, a classic set piece in which the three siblings are assaulted in different locales to ensure that the deed changes hands. That’s the high point of the picture.
Everything that comes before, and some of what sputters in afterward plays like filler.
Cast: Khoharullah Majid, Feiyna Tajudin, Fad Anuar, Salehuddin Abu Bakar and Namron
Credits: Directed by Areel Abu Bakar, script by Hafiz Derani. A Well Go USA release.
Running time: 1:41