With Indonesia slowly but surely turning into a 21st century Hong Kong for martial arts fans, it was only a matter of time before they’d dip their toes in the fantasy wuxia pond. With its wire-fu driven action sequences and breathtaking cinematography of the nation’s scenic beauty, “The Golden Cane Warrior” strives to be Indonesia’s answer to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, and succeeds admirably in that endeavor.
Stepping into the role of the wise-mentor of the film, Guru Cempaka, is Christine Hakim, with Eva Celia portraying the strongest of her four students, Dara, while Aria Kusumah makes his film debut as Angin, a child warrior skilled beyond his years. Reza Rahadian and Tara Basro assume the necessary antagonistic duties in this picture in the roles of Cempaka’s rogue students, Biru and Gerhana. Meanwhile Nicolas Saputra rounds out the cast as Elang, a highly skilled fighter with ties to Cempaka’s clan of students who proves to be Dara’s and Angin’s greatest ally.
Guru Cempaka, the respected leader of the Golden Cane Warriors, intends to pass her eponymous weapon onto the most senior of her four students, Dara, along with the teaching of the weapon’s deadliest technique, “Golden Cane Encircles the Earth”. Unfortunately, this does not sit well with her students Biru and Gerhana, followers of opponents Cempaka had defeated in battle and taken on as her own disciples. Cempaka’s two disgruntled students poison their guru and hotly pursue Dara and Cempaka’s youngest student, Angin, with the help of numerous other martial arts schools who erroneously believe the two to be her actual assassins.
If you have an abundance of frequent flier miles, it’s a safe bet that you’ll want to cash them in for a trip to Indonesia after seeing “The Golden Cane Warrior”. Like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, the film gives a stunningly beautiful portrait of the landscape of its home country.
There’s nary a scene that takes place indoors, and that’s hardly a criticism with this kind of rich and vibrant scenery. It also gives ample scope for the film’s wire-driven action scenes, which while perhaps not as advanced as those seen in the “Crouching Tiger” or “Matrix” films, manage to be just as graceful while being a touch more violent.
We fans may roll our eyes at wire-work in other movies, but the wuxia genre is exactly where it’s most appropriate and welcome. Xiong Xin Xin works his magic as fight choreographer on the many staff driven battles throughout the film, and the action is as immaculately and flatteringly captured as the landscape it takes place in.
As you’d probably guess from the title, the action is mostly based on staff combat but it also manages to work in some Silat kicks and hand strikes, mostly those of the circular or spinning variety which really blends in well with the staff movements.
The cast all look like real pro’s in combat and for a complete newcomer, Aria Kusumah in particular really stands out. Clad in a warrior’s robe with his head shaven and a staff always by his side, he’s the spitting image of Aang from “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and (on the basis of his performance in the film) it would be out of this world if he were given the chance to assume the Avatar’s mantle in a live-action format – wink, wink! Eva Celia and Nicolas Saputra make a perfect heroic team, while Reza Rahadian and Tara Basro are equally strong as the villainous duo.
Like “The Rebel”, the film occasionally gets a little excessively glum and dour, but never keeps the audience waiting too long for things to liven right back up. In the meantime it feeds some delicious food for thought with its philosophical perspective (espoused by Guru Cempaka) namely that the act of slaying one’s opponent is tantamount to defeat. Of course, there are times when the opponent gives you no choice, and such is the case for the two-on-two final battle pitting Dara and Elang against Biru and Gerhana. It’s a surprisingly long duel that manages to be sufficiently intense without much outright bloodshed and of course it gives the audience the payoff they both want and deserve by showing us just what the “Golden Cane Encircles the Earth” maneuver is really all about!
“The Golden Cane Warrior” is a gorgeous film in every sense of the word. The cinematography is enchanting, the philosophical perspective deeply thought-provoking and the martial arts action is both powerful and elegant in equal parts, an elusive balancing act to pull off when wire-fu is the name of the game. As the world eagerly awaits the upcoming epic feast that will be “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II: The Green Legend”, meanwhile a tantalizing Indonesian appetizer can be served up care of “The Golden Cane Warrior”.
- Xiong Xin Xin served as Jet Li’s stunt double in the “Once Upon A Time in China” movies and would appear in the series in his most famous role, Clubfoot.
- Xiong Xin Xin has also made appearances in, and done stunt work and fight choreography for, “Shaolin”, “Seven Swords” “Tiger Cage 2”, the upcoming “Lady Bloodfight”, and “Coweb”, which he also directed.
- Christine Hakim also portrayed Wulan, the mother of Iko Uwais’ character Yuda in “Merantau”.