WiraDirector: Adrian Teh
Cast: Hairul Azreen, Fify Azmi, Yayan Ruhian, Dain Said, Hilal Azman, Ismi Melinda, Henley Hii, Josiah Hogan
Like any good action film worth its salt, director Adrian Teh immediately goes into overdrive with Wira's opening sequence.
Off the bat, the audience is taken inside the ring of an underground mixed martial arts (MMA) fight, where two women (Indonesian actor Ismi Melinda and Malaysia's Fify Azmi) are going at each other.
It's brutal and beautiful at the same time, thanks to way the camera follows the duel closely, with every punch and every kick making an impression.
Wira does slow down here and there to ensure there is a semblance of a plot to string the film's many action sequences, many of which are well choreographed and executed, and on par with big budget international films.
If I have one complaint about the frenetic fast scenes, it's that the quickened frame speed comes off somewhat unnatural to the eye. But one gets used to the speed as we're caught up in the brawls.
The story is set in a town where the poor folks live under the thumb of gangster Raja (a surprisingly convincing Dain Said). The mob leader persuades the locals to give up their lands with a promise of a home at a newly-built residential flat building, as well as employment at his factory.
One of the families who agreed to the deal is Hassan and Zain's parents, who soon regret their decision, causing disharmony within the unit.As the flat building becomes more dilapidated over the years, so does the lives of the families living in it due to Raja's illegal activities.
Wira's story really begins with Hassan (a natural Hairul Azreen) returning home after a long stint in the army. His most urgent plan is to save his family from Raja's hold, especially his sister, Zain (an effective Fify), who struck a deal with Raja that landed her in debt with the bad guy. Of course, things don't go smoothly for Hassan at all.
As is the nature of an action film, the plot of Wira is told as efficiently as possible so it can move on to the next action scene.
But while the director is competent on the visual part – he gives all the necessary information quickly and you get the gist easily enough – some of the dialogues was just too awkward to bear. Luckily, these exchanges are kept to a minimum.
The film's most important achievement is incorporating a totally bad-a** female hero in Fify's Zain.
Too many local films portray female characters as damsels in distress, waiting for the men to save them. It is disheartening to see women in Malaysian films painted as weak, both physically and mentally.
However, Zain is presented here as someone who never backs away from a fight. She is confident and strong, and able to stand her ground, whether it's fighting thugs or just sticking to her beliefs.
Also kudos to Teh, for making Hassan someone who trusts his little sister's capability, allowing her to fight her own battles whenever possible.
Hope this will spark other filmmakers to step up in how they portray women as well... at the very least, not as a helpless woman, cowering in fear, please.
Wira features an end-credit scene involving Zain, which promises at least one more film with this formidable character at its core.
Oddly, Wira places what could be perceived as a climactic fight scene 40 minutes into the film. It's a two-on-two fight in the ring, and it's quite an exciting one.
The reason this comes early is because Teh throws in two more fight sequences bettering itself each time.
The one set in a moving bus..., well, that one alone is worth the price of the movie ticket and arguably the highlight of the film... until you watch the next one – the exciting, non-stop fight between Hairul's Hassan and Yayan Ruhian's Ifrit.
Needless to say the Indonesian martial artist/action star Yayan truly ups the fight scene, as does Hairul. Yayan, also Wira's fight choreographer, the cast and Teh have definitely brought Malaysian action films to a much higher level.
Now let's keep the momentum going.
'Wira' goes all out in the action department and succeeds.