Back in 2009, filmmaker Gareth Evans made his feature directorial debut with the martial arts action spectacular “Merantau”. For Mr. Evans to bolt out of the gate so strongly was made all the more impressive not only by the fact that he was a Welshman kick-starting his career in Indonesia, but also by the film’s leading man, Iko Uwais.
A highly skilled Silat exponent, Iko was plucked from obscurity and instantly became the newest tough guy on the block for action fans around the world. With his subsequent work in 2012’s “The Raid: Redemption” and its 2014 sequel, “The Raid 2”, Iko had pretty much solidified himself as both an emerging action star and a distinguished ambassador for Silat across the globe.
Fast-forward a few more years, and the filmography of Iko Uwais reads like a rundown of some of the most thrilling martial arts action films of the 21st century. Most recently, audiences have seen Iko among the massive martial arts ensemble that is “Triple Threat”, the hybrids of martial-arts action and slasher-movie horror “Headshot” and “The Night Comes For Us”, and even standing toe-to-toe with alien invaders in “Beyond Skyline”.
With an impressive body of work to his name, it was frankly quite difficult to pin down, and rank Iko’s greatest Silat battles to date. However, with the highly anticipated series “Wu Assassins” hitting Netflix soon, we’re not going to let that stop us from trying. So, hold tight for an Indonesian-esque fest-of-fu, maybe with a trusty kerambit by your side, readers – because here (in descending order) is KFK’s countdown of the Top 10 Iko Uwais Movie Fights!
- Bathroom Stall Battle — The Raid 2 (2014)
- Jaka vs Devereaux — Triple Threat (2019)
- Prison Yard Fight — The Raid 2
- Temple Battle — Beyond Skyline (2017)
- Jaka vs Long Fei — Triple Threat
- Container Showdown — Merantau (2009)
- Abdi (“Ishmael”) vs Lee — Headshot (2016)
- Ito vs Arian — The Night Comes For Us (2018)
- Putting a ‘Mad Dog’ down — The Raid: Redemption (2011)
Talk about nerve-racking tension rising for the beginning of an action scene! Upon its release in 2012, many likened “The Raid: Redemption” to a survival horror movie enveloped in the body of a martial arts actioner.
While “The Raid 2” transitions its tone into more of a “Godfather”-esque crime thriller, it nevertheless held on to the horror movie DNA of its predecessor when it came to building suspense into its adrenaline action bubble.
Nowhere is that better exemplified than the first time we see our hero, Rama, spring into action. Sent to prison under the pseudonym “Yuda” in order to get close to the incarcerated son of Jakarta’s biggest crime boss, Rama is forced to fight off daily attacks from the other inmates.
As he sits in that bathroom stall pondering the sacrifices he’s been forced to make, both he and the audience know that door is coming down as the last screw in the lock slowly jiggles loose. From that moment on, all hell breaks loose as Rama pulls his mob of enemies into the stall to pummel into submission, two at a time.
While the set piece itself is a masterfully finessed fight sequence (and the exceedingly rare one to take place in a bathroom stall, no less), the build-up is what really lends it power. As if some savage, bloodthirsty monster is pounding at the door, we in the audience simultaneously dread the impending attack as well as breathlessly anticipate it.
Fun fact – “The Raid 2” began life as a separate film entirely, titled “Berandal” (which translates, “Thug”). After writer-director Gareth Evans was unable to secure funding for the film as a standalone project, he subsequently retooled it into a sequel to “The Raid”. Evans even put together an early proof-of-concept for “Berandal”, which you can see below. This would later serve as the basis for this very scene. It just goes to show the value of perseverance!
When “Triple Threat”, aka “The Asian Expendables”, dropped earlier this year, it brought a tsunami wave of excitement in its wake pooling together a Murderer’s Row of martial arts masters under the direction of stunt veteran Jesse Johnson. Simply put, the finale of “Triple Threat” is the kind of thing that action aficionados dream of, but never think we’re actually going to see – which, of course, makes it that much more satisfying when “Triple Threat” comes along like Santa Claus jump-kicking down our collective fu-chimney.
The climactic battle of the film pits a Who’s Who of action stars against one another in a final battle that martial arts fans will likely be raving about for years to come, and it also gives Iko Uwais, in the role of Jaka, his first real David vs Goliath match-up against the tough as nails Devereaux, played by Michael Jai White.
As with each individual component of the epic crescendo of “Triple Threat”, Jaka and Devereaux’s smackdown comes with some serious buildup. Jaka, determined to avenge the death of his wife, approaches his vendetta with the mindset of a chess player, steering both his enemies and his allies where he wants them. Devereaux, however, sees right through Jaka’s façade, and does everything he can to get him to expose himself, managing to push his buttons right before the fireworks start.
Fortunately, he keeps his cool until the time is right, and the pay-off is immensely satisfying when Jaka and Devereaux finally go head-to-head. The fact that it’s also just one-third of the (literally) cinder block smashing finale of “Triple Threat” makes Jaka’s match-up with Devereaux a David vs Goliath duel to remember!
When it comes to prison movie fights, “The Raid 2” stills reigns supreme (as you can see by its place of honor on KFK’s Top 10 Prison Movie Fights)!
Our hero Rama goes undercover in prison in order to get close to Uco, played by Arifin Putra, the son of Jakarta’s biggest crime boss. However, when Uco becomes a target of some of their fellow inmates, Rama must take it upon himself to come to Uco’s defense, leading to a chaotic free-for-all bust up in the prison yard.
While more a crime thriller in comparison to the survival horror feel of the original, “The Raid 2” still retains plenty of the horror movie vibes of its predecessor. The build-up here keeps us in the audience on the edge of our seats and our anticipation tight as a drum, as we both dread and yearn for the inevitable smackdown of killers and psychos. And boy! when it kicks in, it’s every bit as savagely gruesome as you’d expect a prison riot to be.
Adding to the difficulty of our hero’s mission is the fact that he and every other prisoner have to fight while ankle-deep and completely caked in mud. What solidifies its strength, however, is the same thing that makes both of “The Raid” films enduring action classics, and that’s our fervent concern for the well-being of our hero, Rama.
A rookie cop thrown into the most nightmarish of circumstances, the film’s horror movie-derived brutality leaves us rooting for him to simply make it home to his wife and baby in one piece. With such a horrendous challenge as a prison riot to battle his way out of, “The Raid 2” has us totally hooked on a visceral journey with Rama all the way through to the end.
Now this is something you don’t see every day – a martial arts showdown in an alien invasion movie! A parallel sequel to 2010’s “Skyline”, 2017’s “Beyond Skyline” zeroes in on a new batch of human survivors during the same alien invasion. In the sequel, police detective Mark, played by Frank Grillo, and Laotian freedom fighter Sua, played by Iko, lead a band of human resistance fighters in a bold, last stand for the fate of the world, which includes Iko’s co-star from “The Raid” films, Yayan Ruhian.
Everything about the finale of “Beyond Skyline” is something you’ve simply never seen before in an alien invasion thriller –from the tremendous setting in an ancient Laotian temple to the very idea of humans fighting off their towering alien opponents in a Silat battle. Naturally, it wouldn’t be complete without a little alien tech into the equation, which comes in the form of the “power claw”, Sua’s use of which precedes his casual snagging of the best line in the movie, no less.
“Beyond Skyline” aims to live up to its name and take us beyond what we’ve seen before from invading aliens in a sci-fi action adventure, and with a healthy serving of Silat blended into the mix, it pulls that off splendidly. Be sure to also check out KFK’s exclusive interview with the director of “Beyond Skyline”, Liam O’Donnell!
Aside from giving Iko Uwais a chance to go head-to-head with Tiger Chen before their team-up with Tony Jaa, this one also represents a bit of a do-over. Specifically, one for Iko and Tiger’s previous shindig in Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut “Man of Tai Chi”. While the film overall was genuinely solid with plenty of enthralling action, Iko and Tiger’s rumble left something to be desired.
Fortunately, “Triple Threat” wastes no time at all in rectifying that, and our two warriors in the ring do not disappoint. During an explosive raid (no pun intended!) on a rural village, the casualties include the wife of our hero Jaka, who then comes to erroneously believe that Long Fei, played by Tiger Chen, has her blood on his hands.
Jaka comes to collect on his vendetta when he finds Long Fei and his associate Payu, played by Tony Jaa, competing in a local Muay Thai ring. Suffice to say, Jaka and Long Fei’s confrontation is everything you crave to see when a master of Silat and a man of Tai Chi cross fists. It earns its place of honor among Iko’s greatest hits for treating us to the battle of masters we’d been waiting so long to see fully realized!
The world first met Iko Uwais and director Gareth Evans at the same time with the release of “Merantau”, and as mentioned above, they both came swinging right out of the gate.
The film focuses on a young man named Yuda, who leaves his tiny rural village in West Sumatra for the hustle and bustle of Jakarta, as part of an Indonesian rite of passage known as “merantau”. Along the way, he comes to the rescue of Astri, played by Sisca Jessica, and dozens of other young women kidnapped and sold into a human trafficking operation.
It all leads up to Yuda’s final face-off with the sinister heads of the operation, Ratger, played by Mads Koudal, and Luc, played by Lohan Buson. What really makes the finale of “Merantau”, and the film as whole, particularly special is just how much our hero is clearly in over his head. Leaving home for the first time to make his way in the world, he never expected to be involved in such a steep experience curve of rescuing perfect strangers from organized crime.
Indeed, his introduction to Astri and her young brother Adit, played by Yusuf Aulia, occurs in such a way as to theoretically set them on different paths entirely. Nevertheless, Yuda’s conscience won’t allow him to walk away from innocent people being abused and oppressed, and as we see by the end of “Merantau”, his commitment to doing the right thing comes with a hefty price tag.
With its stunning, powerfully emotional action finale to cap off the movie, “Merantau” kick started Iko’s career with a good measure of due respect.
(NB: Be sure to also check out Lohan Buson in the Z-Team’s 2014 thriller, “Die Fighting”!)
No one has ever accused directors Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel of being restrained in their approach to directing action. And, if anyone ever does, five minutes pulled at random from “Headshot” ought to do the trick in correcting that woeful misconception.
When an amnesiac young man, (Abdi) played by Iko Uwais, washes ashore a beach in Indonesia, his nurse gives him the name “Ishmael” in reference to the novel “Moby Dick”. However, he soon discovers that he has his own personal Captain Ahab in the form of the megalomaniacal Lee, played by Sunny Pang, who is determined to pull his wayward “son” Abdi back into his old life of violence.
The brutality of “Headshot” is like something out of the dark ages, and that’s especially the case for Abdi and Lee’s final meet, a battle of father and “son” that’s simply relentless in the punishment the two combatants put each other through. Rest assured, you FEEL the final showdown of “Headshot” on both a visceral and emotional level, which further pays the film off by the fact that Abdi’s fighting skills have returned to him as gradually as his memory has.
When the time to face off with Lee finally arrives, he’s right back at the top of his game, and Iko is as sharp as ever as the fully realized Abdi. If the sight of blood bothers you, definitely steer clear of “Headshot”, (do not watch it with your girlfriend) but for all hardcore action freaks the finale of “Headshot” is a Silat smackdown for the ages!
“The Night Comes for Us” chose a fitting release date indeed, arriving on Netflix on October 19th, 2018. With its blend of martial arts action with unapologetic blood and guts right out of a “Friday the 13th” movie, it’s as much a horror film as an action flick. It’s a combination that’s become increasingly commonplace in recent years – one that Indonesia can currently claim to be the best in the world at.
Like a modernized take on the Sonny Chiba “Street Fighter” films, “The Night Comes For Us” is quite arguably more off-the-planet in terms of sheer brutality than any action film made in the last decade and a half, and possibly even longer. Like with his previous directorial effort, “Headshot”, Timo Tjahjanto knows how to pack every last droplet of emotional power into a climactic fight sequence. Two former friends, Arian, (played by Iko Uwais) and Ito (played by Joe Taslim) both lay their cards on the table in the most bitter falling out imaginable.
Just prior to the events of the film, our sympathy might well have laid more with the ambitious Arian, than with Ito who finds a chance at redeeming his soul after a life of indifference to the pain he’s inflicted on so many people working in organized crime. However, no end could’ve been more fitting for “The Night Comes For Us” than for Ito and Arian’s utterly blood-soaked showdown of Silat masters, one where Iko excels in his first real performance as a villain, and a curiously sympathetic one at that.
Well, we all knew this list wouldn’t – nay, couldn’t – be complete without the finale of “The Raid”, didn’t we? Something that particularly sweetened the deal of seeing “The Raid” in theaters back in 2012 was being among those audience members who had already seen “Merantau”. Not only did we have the benefit of knowing what Iko, Yayan Ruhian, and director Gareth Evans were capable of in advance, it also made the reactions of newbies around us that much more satisfying.
Nevertheless, whether you’d seen “Merantau” or not, the two-on-one finale of “The Raid” was an unforgettable showdown to cap off the year’s most unapologetically savage hour and forty-one minutes of action. What really branded it in our collective memory, however, was Yayan Ruhian’s portrayal of one of cinema’s most vicious right-hand men, ‘Mad Dog’.
We already know, by this point in the film, that he forgoes guns for the sake of slaughtering his enemies in the most barbaric way possible, leaving us that much more concerned when he seems to be getting the upper hand. And even the combined might of Rama and his estranged brother Andi, played by Donny Alamsyah, is just barely enough just to keep him in check, to say nothing of the minimal impact a fluorescent light tube has on him.
A hero is only as strong as the villain forces him to be, and Mad Dog is undoubtedly the most psychotic and outright animalistic foe Iko Uwais has ever had to face – just one of many reasons why “The Raid: Redemption” became an instant classic the moment it crashed onto theater screens.
…and in at #1 is…
Kitchen Fight Finale — The Raid 2
Iko Uwais has been at the center of some of the best martial-arts action scenes of the 21st century, but without a doubt, his crowning achievement of Silat action comes in the form of the climactic kitchen battle of “The Raid 2”.
Just about the entire third act of the film is an embodiment of the term “non-stop action” like never quite seen before. Our hero, Rama, battles his way past one swarm of foes after another, including one doozy of a car chase/fight sequence that ended up serving as a bit of a primer for the vehicular mayhem of “Mad Max: Fury Road” the following year.
All of it builds up to the film’s pièce de résistance, Rama’s epic smackdown with an unnamed assassin, played by Cecep Arif Rahman. Starting out with both combatants going hand-to-hand, the duel intensifies immensely when The Assassin pulls out a pair of lethal-looking curved blades known in Indonesia as “kerambit”.
When it comes to big screen knife fights, the finale of “The Raid 2” is simply without peer, and it’s aided immeasurably by the film’s score, conveying the foreboding desperation in both combatants – each trying to gain the upper hand while slashing each other to shreds. It’s brutal, it’s beautiful, it’s intense, it’s glorious – what else can you say about the climactic fight of “The Raid 2” except that this one in particular takes the crown of Iko Uwais’ finest big screen battle to date!