Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash review – masterful send up of 80s action flicks | Movies

Pulpy yet swooningly romantic, Edwin’s entertaining thriller has perhaps the coolest film title in recent years; it also won the Golden Leopard at last year’s Locarno film festival. Adapted from the popular novel by Eka Kurniawan – the first Indonesian writer to be nominated for the Booker prize – this is a bombastic time capsule of 1980s Indonesia that is all about the essence of manhood. Left impotent by a childhood trauma, Ajo (Marthino Lio) can’t get it up, but he can certainly raise his fists, earning a reputation as a daredevil who chases death just to prove his virility.

Paved with hair-raising motorcycle duels and even murder plots, Ajo’s path towards self-destruction is cut short by his encounter with Iteung (Ladya Cheryl), a girl hired as the bodyguard for one of the young man’s intimidation targets. Cue the perfect meet-cute where the pair engage in thrilling hand-to-hand combat against the spectacular backdrop of a concrete dumping ground. And like any classic love scene, the camera lingers on their contorting bodies, accentuating the sensuality as much as the speed of martial arts moves.

This paradoxical passion and violence is the beating heart of the narrative. Ajo and Iteung get married, and their wedding is followed by a trail of betrayals, homicidal revenges, and prison stints. These blood-soaked deeds are portrayed in a hilariously deadpan manner, which simultaneously pays homage to and subverts 1980s Indonesian action flicks. Considering that most of the baddies are ex-military figures, the film subtly conjures up the brutality that existed under Suharto’s New Order regime, when ideals of hypermasculinity ran rampant in popular culture.

An adrenaline-pumping action fest that is ironic in many respects, Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash swerves towards the mystical and the spiritual in the latter half, becoming a earnest and potent critique on the trappings of masculinity.

Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash is available on 5 Aug on Arrow.

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Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash review – masterful send up of 80s action flicks | Movies

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