Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Empire on Fire
Starring: Mike Abbott, Atut Augustinato, Nina Anwar
When it comes to perverse action films, few countries can match Indonesia for sheer outrageousness. This entry, 'Empire on Fire' may not feature as much over the top action and gore as say the Jaka Sembung series, but it makes up for it (depending on your taste, that is) with an eyebrow raising display of sexual violence and general bad behavior.
Once again, The Dutch are the enemy as nasty invader, Bogart (Mike Abbott, who made a career out of playing American bad guys in many Hong Kong movies of the '80s including 'Fatal Termination', 'City Hunter' and 'A Better Tomorrow 2' as well as a fair share of Godfrey Ho cut and paste pics) invading the Indonesian countryside with (oddly) his army of local villains. As per the usual pillaging, they kill all the men and rape the women (as one particular shot so graphically demonstrates, showing one soldier leaving a burning hut while fixing his uniform. The following shot shows a woman stumbling from the hut bleeding down her legs!). It climaxes with the beheading of the local leader in front of his surviving people. After the siege, Bogart claims himself king of the land and sells off the survivors as human slaves (what a guy!). Fast forward a few years and the son and wife of the slain village leader break up one particular slave auction in order to rescue one named Mira. They believe that she is the one who can bring down the evil Bogart (exactly why she is the chosen one is not made clear, to me anyway). To 'train' her for this, she is put through all manner of sexual tortures in order to toughen her up so she can withstand Bogart's violent rape sessions. These include laying her on a red hot slab of rock and then pounding her vagina with a slab of wood until she looses feeling in it (I'm not kidding)! After more plot contrivances including another Dutch General whom Mira has had a previous encounter with and secretly wants to kill even more than Bogart, the nasty baddies all get their comeuppance in appropriately bloody and gory fashion.
As you may ascertain from the above plot rundown, 'Empire on Fire' is not a film that's recommended to children... or adults with scruples for that matter. It's depiction of rape (and the heroine's training to withstand it) is so outrageously matter of fact that my brain eventually became numb to it, much like Mira's vagina (yeah I went there... I don't care anymore). What makes the proceedings even odder is the way everything is portrayed. The action (which includes a fair amount of entertaining martial arts battles) are as gory as one may expect, yet the 'violent rape' sequences (there is no nudity in this film, btw) are portrayed as little more than flowery romantic encounters worthy of a love story!
Though the plot gets overly complicated in the second half with at least a couple of characters too many, 'Empire on Fire' still adds up to bizarre, action filled and head shakingly wrongminded entertainment. When it comes to culture shock for this New Jersey native, Indonesian exploitation films can 'shock' like few others can.