REVIEW: ‘Silat Warriors: Deed of Death’ is an Admiral First Feature

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Silat Warrior: Deed of Death

In his feature film debut, Malaysian director Areel Abu Bakar delivers an entertaining martial arts film that despite the very serious implication of its title, Silat Warriors: Deed of Death,  provides a nice message of family and faith with a hefty dose of impressive action sequences. As the youngest, Mat Arip (Fad Anuar) grew up spoiled, and irrepressible.  Accustomed to always getting his way, he never considered how the consequences of his actions could put the people in his life in danger – namely those of his family – until trouble arrives at his family’s doorstep after he uses the deed to his father’s house and land as collateral for an illegal gambling debt with the local gang.

Originally released in 2019 Silat Warriors: Deed of Death, also titled Geran – which is the Malay word for permits or certificates for large grants of land, stars Khoharullah Majid as Ali, and Faiyna Tajudin as Fatima, Mat Arip’s older siblings, and veteran actor Namron as their father Pak Nayan.

Addicted to gambling on illegal underground fights, and street racing, Mat Arip finds it easy to bet thousands of dollars at a time, always sure that he’ll be the winner, despite being constantly in debt to local loan shark Haji Daud. With the hubris of an addict, Mat Arip believes he can talk his way out of every situation, until he can’t. Frustrated with their little brother’s don’t-carish attitude, Fatima and Ali plead with Pak Nayan to finally admonish his son and talk sense into him. But his calmness over the situation, only makes them more exasperated.

Needing advice on how to handle the tenuous situation created by his brother, Ali turns to his instructor for advice. He’s told to be patient, and trust that his father knows what to do, and to be ready when the time comes for him to act. As with any action film, the 3rd act is where most of the action occurs, and it’s all rather entertaining. Finally given permission to step in and take control, Ali ends up in a number of fights that felt similar to a fighting game where each opponent levels up in the difficulty factor, till he reaches the final big bad. I found this kind of funny because I thought Pat Nayak was just biding his time until finally confronting Haji Daud, and there’d be a boss-level fight between them, but nope he was just waiting for the moment to send Ali into the metaphorical ring. I personally think that was a bit unfair to Ali because ultimately the task to clean up his brother’s mess was left up to him. If Mat Arip learned anything from this remains to be seen.

Whether it’s intentional or not, there’s a great juxtaposition of how those who practice the faith and show respect for the martial arts, seem to have a much more stable and polished fighting technique than those who don’t. As the bad guys tend to fight dirtier and use weapons like metal pipes and blades. Wanting the fight scenes to have a sense of believability, Abu Bakar visited various martial arts competitions to find his cast, and with a main and some supporting cast comprised of novice actors, this decision pays off as there’s level of confidence in their movements that comes through, as action sequences are what holds the film up, with the addition of some pretty well-shot car racing sequences. There are some low-angle shots of the cars’ tires and undercarriage that would be great to see on the big screen.

As a fighting style, Silat is more about defending than attacking, and it comes through in the choreography, which is tailored to the individual characters. One of the first action sequences takes place at the family home when Haji Daud’s men come to demand the family sign the deed over to them. Fatima, not being a person to give in to bullies, tells them to return the deed and leave the house, and when they don’t, she summarily beats each one of them with a few well-executed moves. This particular fight was very exciting and important because it showed how Hijabi women aren’t hampered in their movements by the traditional long dresses and tops they wear. It also serves to dispel any misconceptions people might have about Muslim women being docile or intimidated by men, and the men in their families not respecting their autonomy or opinions, because not once in the film do Pat Nayak, Ali or their community, undermine Fatima as a woman and her ability to defend herself.

Written by Abu Bakar and Hafiz Derani, the plot is pretty straightforward and a bit predictable. We’ve seen the ‘small family fighting against an aggressive group of adversaries seeking to claim their property’ storyline before, but where Silat Warriors differs is how the theme of faith in religion, and its connection to martial arts is the underlying central theme. In Malaysia, the predominant and national religion is Islam, with over 50% of the population being practicing Muslims. As such, the defensive fight style of Silat Melayu or Malay Silat is very much influenced by the philosophy of Islamic spirituality, and because Silat became part of the national curriculum for primary and secondary schools after the country’s independence, the chance of meeting anyone, male or female, who knows how to fight is reasonably high. This unique aspect of Malaysian culture makes the moments when members of the community become involved in a couple of fights, and its moral lessons of faith, respect for elders, the earth, and family feel more sincere, instead of cliched.

All in all, Silat Warriors: Deed of Death is an admiral first feature by Areel Abu Bakar. He has a great eye as a cinematographer for landscape shots and filming action scenes, and with a bit more polish on his scripts and story development, he definitely has a great career ahead of him, and so does his cast. Majid, Tajudin, and Anuar were all pretty good and show promise as dramatic and action stars.

Distributed by Well Go USA, Silat Warriors: Deed of Death debuts on Digital & Blu-ray July 6, 2021.

 

Silat Warriors: Deed of Death
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

All in all, Silat Warriors: Deed of Death is an admiral first feature by Areel Abu Bakar. He has a great eye as a cinematographer for landscape shots and filming action scenes, and with a bit more polish on his scripts and story development, he definitely has a great career ahead of him, and so does his cast. Majid, Tajudin, and Anuar were all pretty good and show promise as dramatic and action stars.