If you like your action movies savage, relentless, and uncompromising, Adrian Teh’s Malaysian actioner “Wira” is the undisputed hit of the summer for you. Part MMA tournament drama, part returning hero’s tale, and part ghetto action-fest, “Wira” is by far the year’s best smackdown of fists, feet, elbows, and blades – with the always reliable Yayan Ruhian in tow to flex his impeccable bad-guy muscles once more!
Hairul Azreen leads the movie as Hassan, with Fify Azmi playing his sister Zain. Dain Said assumes the role of the villainous Raja, with Ismi Melinda portraying his daughter Vee whilst Yayan Ruhian steps into the role of Raja’s dangerous right-hand man Ifrit. Henley Hii plays Boon, a police officer and old friend of Hassan, with Hilal Azman playing his and Zain’s father, Munas.
After a long stint as a commando in the Malaysian military, Hassan returns home to the impoverished neighbourhood he once left behind.
Having gotten a taste of life outside of the slums, Hassan hopes to pull his father Munas and his sister Zain out of the bondage of their run-down neighborhood, but they remain deeply indebted to local crime boss Raja, who rules over the slum with an iron fist.
Knowing that Raja isn’t about to kiss one cent of the money he is owed goodbye, Hassan agrees to step back into the ring for an MMA match in the hope of paying off Zain’s debt – only to soon discover that he’ll actually be fighting right alongside her in the ring.
The pacing of “Wira” is at once the most frustrating aspect of the film as well as its secret weapon. Kicking off with Zain and Vee’s first MMA battle in the ring, “Wira is surprisingly conservative in how much action it delivers in its first half.
Tension Builds in the First Half
That’s not to say that the front portion of the film is lacking in this regard. In fact, the movie even kind of relishes playing with the viewer’s expectations, setting the table with its two major female adversaries beating each other senseless in the ring. Hassan however, takes much more of a path of least resistance approach even when he’s surrounded by a dozen opponents.
Hairul Azreen: Training
These days, an action movie calendar just isn’t complete without several memorable one-shot smackdowns, and “Wira” lays its entry on this year’s table with Hassan facing a swarm of Raja’s goons in a factory, casually dodging and deflecting their every attack with virtually no offense of his own, and all in one-shot. Still, if the mindset of the first half of “Wira” is ‘less is more’, the inverse is where its head is at in the second.
MMA Showdown Leads an Action-Packed Second Half
As soon as Hassan and Zain step into the ring for a two-on-two MMA showdown, “Wira” opens its floodgates for practically nothing but action in its second half.
Hassan and Zain’s bus battle against Raja’s cohorts even brings back some of the tracking camera work seen earlier to capture the set piece from every angle possible, and while the action is plentiful and just about continuous throughout the second half, “Wira” still has an ace up its sleeve with Yayan Ruhian’s Ifrit.
The Raid’s “Mad Dog”, Yayan Ruhian goes Beast Mode (again!)
Not unlike Mad Dog, he’s the type of right-hand man who holds off pouncing until the time is just right, but director Adrian Teh takes that even further with Ifrit not jumping in until the final showdown with Hassan and Zain. With Vee also by his side for one more shot at payback against Zain, the final showdown of “Wira” is Yayan Ruhian at his evil-doing finest – the tiniest powerhouse of an individual, male or female, of the entire cast who easily leaves two enemies at once struggling to barely get a hit in edgeways.
The dynamic of Hassan and Zain fighting side-by-side throughout much of the movie really pays off here. They may not have started out the movie on the best of terms due to Hassan’s military departure, but the duo nevertheless become a pair of sibling battle buddies of the opposite sex, each ready to fall on the sword for the other, a plot device that frankly isn’t seen all that often.
“Wira” is clearly ready to cut loose from its opening minutes, but its patient enough to hold off the full spectrum of what it’s got until its latter half. While that approach may end up frustrating some viewers just a tad, know that it’s well worth the wait for its Tommy Gun spray of electrifying martial arts action when the time does come.
Hairul Azreen and Fify Azmi also elevate the film with the bond of two siblings who enter the heat of battle side by side, while Yayan Ruhian hasn’t lost a scrap of his intense gift for intimidating opponents (and viewers) twice his size.
By any set of criteria, “Wira” is 2020’s best action-packed marathon of oooh-ing and wincing so far – which may not sound like very high praise under the circumstances, but please don’t hold that against it!
- “Wira” was initially released in Malaysia on 21st November 2019.
- Adrian Teh previously directed 2018’s Paskal, in which Hairul Azreen also appeared.
- Yayan Ruhian also served as fight choreographer.
- “Why do you think I left this place? I want to make a change.” – Hassan (when Boon alludes to his rougher past in the slum.)
- “Raja should be the one leaving, not us.” – Munas (when Hassan lays out his aspiration to take him and Zain out of the slum.)
- “It was long overdue” – Zain (after giving Hassan a semi-serious knee strike.)