Friday, August 23, 2013

Pendekar Liar

Director: Dasri Yacob
Starring: Willy Dozan (Billy Chong), Winnie Aditya Suherman, Sutrisno Widjaya

 Billy Chong, the kung fu superstar that almost was. I became an instant fan of the Indonesian born actor ever since my first T.V. exposure back in the mid 80s. One of the most accomplished fighters the martial arts film world has ever seen coupled with natural charisma and strong screen presence, I was always curious why his star never rose beyond the also-ran group. Depending on my mood, I might even go so far as to say he is my favorite fighter/actor not named Bruce Lee. Unfortunately until only a few years ago, I had zero knowledge of Billy's post HK work (to the point where I wasn't sure he even had any). That however, didn't disuade me from penning an embarsassingly incomplete article about him in an old issue of Asian Cult Cinema magazine, circa 1999. I have since discovered that the reason (the given reason, anyway) for his abrupt departure was the disappointing commercial failure of the big budgeted, Sun Chung directed epic, 'Wind, Forest, Fire, Mountain' (aka A Fistful of Talons). He returned to his home country and did indeed resume a movie and T.V. career there under his birth name, Willy Dozan. 'Pendekar Liar' I believe was the first of them.

For the second time in a row, I'm attempting to critique a film that does not contain English subtitles. The previous blog entry, 'Jiu-Jitu' was relatively easy since the storyline was so simple and straightforward. 'Pendekar Liar' proved to be a tad more difficult. Fortunately, I just recently came upon a plot rundown that I was able to translate into very broken English. Hey, better than nothing...

In the film, Billy plays an orphan named Annga (which somehow translates to "CyberNet"!) who has been raised since birth by an old martial arts expert named Cokro and taught the the martial art, Silat (I think). Time and time again Annga attempts and fails to defeat Cokro (reminicent of the teacher pupil scenes in Drunken Master and Chong's own Crystal Fist). Nevertheless, Annga is sent away (with Cokro's loving daughter in tow) to seek out his mother (it has to do with the necklace he's wearing) and solve the mystery of who killed his father.After many adventures (which allow Chong as many chances to fight as possible, most notably taking on a karate school and their ringer, a nearly indestructible fat woman). Annga discovers that it was Cokro himself who caused his family's death... or so he thinks. Cokro as it turns out, has an identical twin...

I've seen my share of Indonesian action/martial arts films of this vintage and entertaining as they are, the actual fight scenes tend to be below the level of those found in Hong Kong. 'Pendekar Liar' for the most part, bucks that trend with some well above average choreography and this is almost certaintly due it's established star. I'm not certain if Chong's participation extended to choreography but judging the heightened level of combat here, I think it's safe to assume that it did. The fights may not quite be as lightening fast as they were in his Hong Kong pics like 'Super Power', 'Kung Fu From Beyond the Grave', 'A Hard Way to Die' and  the aforementioned 'Fistful of Talons', but they're close. Sure, Billy still appears here as a man amongst boys, but it's clear that his incredible martial abilities rubbed off on the production.

If there was a letdown to be felt, then it was in the finale. Though it does work on a dramatic level regarding the dual identity revelation (if anything, the drama and comedy are both handeled with more subtle flare here than in it's H.K. counterparts), it falls somewhat flat in the action department (the big deal being Billy's newly mastered technique which causes him to give off a strobe effect similar to Bruce Lee's famous arm movments vs Petrov in 'Fist of Fury' or Nemuri's Full Moon Sword stance in the later 'Son of the Black Mass' films). But it became clear that Billy had to ease off against his opponent (picture Jackie Chan having a final confrontation against Yuen Siu Tien's evil twin rather than Hwang Jang Lee for the climax of Drunken Master and you'll get the idea) making it feel less exciting than it might have.

That aside, 'Pendekar Liar' is a great find for we Billy Chong fans among who had precious few H.K. vehicles to choose from. Now I'm off to hunt down the rest of Billy's homegrown product...

Rating: 5/10

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