Westerner weighing in on this Around the World with Netflix thriller from Indonesia. Guys, maybe titling your picture, or letting Netflix retitle it “Ben & Jody” isn’t the most butch move you could have made.
It’s like titling a macho, male-centric North American thriller “Jamie & Todd.” Or, you know, “Roger.”
But if your heroes are an office-bound activist and a barista with just enough toughness to get by, I guess that works.
The third film in a martial arts/knife-fight series called “Filosofi Kopi,” it’s as topical as deforestation, as focused on a “Big Martial Arts” finish as any Thai “Ong Bok” movie.
Sure, it drags a bit in the middle acts, and even shifts point of view for a while, away from the barista Beni and his occasionally-weeping pal, Jody. But the Battle Royale finale is fun.
Beni (Chicco Jerikho) is a coffee grower in the jungle, formerly a famed barista in the big city (Jakarta). He’s come “home” to “The District” to help the locals fight Big Lumber takeover of their lands, to stop the widespread deforestation taking place everywhere unbridled capitalism has its way.
The barricades he and his fellow activists man are assaulted by club-wielding corporate goons. And before the night is out, Beni will be assaulted again, and taken hostage mid-call.
Jody (Rio Dewanto) leaves the comfort of the city for “the jungle,” where “We’re all alone here,” (in Indonesian with English subtitles). He has no sooner taken the advice to “Watch your back” when his nosing around leads to him being “taken” as well.
Next thing he knows, the “city boy” and the country barista have their reunion in a cage with over a dozen older men. Ben & Jody and a bunch of small village elders are now part of the slave workforce that Jakarta Pacific (I made that up) uses for its path-clearing, before coming in to clear cut.
They plot their escape. It involves Beni’s A-rated coffee, and “Their guard is down any time they watch a badminton game.” But getting out, being grievously wounded in the process, only leads them to a village where the archer-women (Hana Malasan, Aghiny Haque) are in charge, and hellbent on freeing their elders.
Veteran heavy and Javanese fight choreographer Yayan Ruhian is our jungle villain, a man who would kill — literally — for a good cuppa Joe. But will our pacifist, ethical protestors and the women determined to fight back “ethically” go that far?
Director and co-writer Angga Dwimas Sasongko, who directed the mini-series that started this franchise, seems impatient to get through the preliminaries and get to the Big Brawl. There are dead patches and much of what puts these two dangerous-if-they-escape-and-tell-the-world characters in slavery seems perfunctory and arbitrary.
Not only can they never be allowed to leave alive, they aren’t stripped of all of their possessions when they arrive. Each finds himself with a neat wristwatch, perhaps a bargaining chip for later?
I sense wirework in some of the action that makes up the Big Finish, an attempted rescue at the lumber camp. Characters isolate and pair-up with a foe, with daggers and fists and machetes the preferred weapons. Pistols and AK-47s are what you use when you’re sure you’ve lost.
The finish isn’t bad. But too much of what “Ben & Jody” go through to get there is seriously decaffeinated, I must say.
Rating: TV-MA, bloody violence, gun violence, profanity
Cast: Chicco Jerikho, Rio Dewanto, Hana Malasan, Aghniny Haque and Yayan Ruhian.
Credits: Directed by Angga Dwimas Sasongko, scripted by Angga Dwimas Sasongko and M. Nurman Wardi, based on characters created by Dewi Lestari. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:54