As a huge of fan of both The Raid (awesome movie) and The Raid 2 (just fucking incredible), I'm surprised it took me so long to get to Merantau. For those who aren't familiar with Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais, the director and the star of a pair of the finest action films ever (that would be The Raid and The Raid 2 for anyone who's having a hard time keeping up), this potent team first hit the scene with Merantau back in 2009. Knowing that this was the film that launched this ultra-talented tandem, I was expecting something vastly inferior, but that wasn't the case. I think that with The Raid and its powerhouse sequel, Evans and Uwais greatly advanced their game in terms of plot and effects/gore, but Merantau is no amateur debut. It's a highly-polished martial arts film with a decent story and an abundance of riveting fight choreography. It's a bit more traditional than those later efforts, with The Raid taking a John Carpenter-esque approach to the genre and The Raid 2 deftly combining kung fu treachery (I never miss a chance to give Black Dynamite his due) and a plot that was on par with The Departed. Yet Merantau is still highly-effective, and if I had happened upon this before viewing either Raid picture, I would have been almost as keen on Evans and Uwais.
Final Grade: B