Indonesian Netflix film “The Big 4”, which was released in last week, is a very violet action flick which is also quite silly and melodramatic at times. Although this extreme mix is mostly too uneven and shallow for me, the movie seldom bores its target audiences as diligently doing one thing after another during its 141-minute running time, and you may come to have some expectation on its possible sequel, if you enjoy it more than me.
Right from the opening sequence unfolded inside a seemingly benevolent charity organization which turns out to be quite atrocious, the movie strikes us hard with its deliberately jarring concoction of extreme violence and silly gags. Once they are ready to attack their latest target, Topan (Abimana Aryasatya) and his three team members go all the way for rescuing those poor children to be dissected for illegal organ trafficking sooner or later, and we are surely served with lots of bloody and gory moments as they swiftly and mercilessly eliminate every opponent in their sight.
These four persons have been under the guidance of Petrus (Budi Ros), an old man who has been a father/mentor figure since they were very young. When his daughter Dina (Putri Marino) becomes a police officer at last, Petrus decides to retire just because he does not want to have more problem between him and his daughter, and his four pupils respect his decision even though they are not so happy about his decision.
However, Petrus is suddenly killed while being ready to move onto the next chapter of his remaining life, and that certainly devastates both Topan and Dina. Dina becomes quite determined to find out who killed her father, but the case remains unsolved during next three years, and that makes her quite frustrated to say the least – until she accidentally comes across a little thing which leads her to something her father hid from her for years.
Dina subsequently goes to a little island which is a well-known spot for tourists, and that is how she comes to encounter Topan, who has been living a relatively quiet life in the island just like his fellow team members since their mentor’s death. Right from their first encounter in a shabby little hotel, Dina instantly senses something is not quite right, and, what do you know, Topan soon finds himself wielding his good old killing skills when it turns out that there are some dangerous people following after Dina.
These dangerous people are led by a ruthless figure named Antonio Sandoval (Marthino Lio). When he is introduced to us early in the film, he and his gang members are eliminating their latest opponents, and he enjoys every minute of it while also showing off his jacket which is not so different from the one worn by Ryan Gosling in “Drive” (2011).
As gradually revealed along the story, Antonio is driven by a certain personal motive besides being hired by someone eager to eliminate Topan and his team members, and Topan and his team members have no choice but to go back to their good old killing mode in addition to working along with Dina. Although she does not trust Topan and his team members much at first, Dina eventually helps them because there is not anyone to help her besides them, and, not so surprisingly, she also finds herself attracted to Topan as she gets to know him more.
While these main characters bounce from one narrative point to another, the movie keeps things rolling as pouring lots of action and comedy onto the screen. You may chuckle while watching a number of broad comic moments including the one involved with a sudden catfight between Dina and the only female member of Topan’s team, and then you will be quite thrilled or shocked by several relentless action sequences. As far as I observed from the film, it kills as much as its fellow Indonesian action movie “The Raid: Redemption” (2012), and I assure you that the movie is equally violent except that it also does lots of silly gags even during its most violent moments.
That brings a sort of personality to the film, but I often felt distant to it even while admiring the considerable efforts put into its main action sequences. I appreciate how the main cast members willingly throw themselves into both action and comedy, but their acting often feels cartoonish to me as frequently swinging back and forth between heavy-handed melodrama and cheap comedy, and their characters do not have much substance behind their colorful appearances. In the end, I did not care much when the movie arrived at its expected big finale filled with lots of bangs and crashes.
In conclusion, “The Big 4” is not entirely without good things to enjoy, but I still hesitate to recommend it due to many reasons including its overlong narrative and superficial characterization (Several main female figures in the film are mostly defined by how attractive they look, for example). Maybe because I did not enjoy much “The Raid: Redemption” and its following 2014 sequel unlike many others, I was not entertained a lot by what is so loudly and violently presented in the film, but I have to say that director/co-writer/co-producer Timo Tjahjanto is a good action movie director who does know how to present action on the screen well for us. Seriously, I can only hope that he will do a better job in terms of story and characters in his next film.