HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Golden Cane Warrior
HTS Overall Score:76
Screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival, “The Golden Cane Warrior” is a rather solid attempt to enter into the Asian Wu Xia market, using some fantastic martial arts and a rough hand behind the camera to make a fun little Wire Fu movie. Asia doesn’t have a LLLLLLLOT of female action stars, and not a lot of them make good onscreen presences. Especially ones with Martial Arts skills. I saw the chopped up trailer early on and dismissed the movie based on those couple minutes, but actually ended up being rather pleasantly surprised when I actually sat down and chewed through the nearly 2 hour action film. It’s not a slam dunk hit, but “The Golden Cane Warrior” does a great job at trying to emulate a genre that Hong Kong made so famous, and blending in a bit of their own unique fighting flair to boot. The middle is a bit too tedious, but the beginning act and the final fight scene almost make up for the sluggish center point of the movie.
Cempaka (Christine Hakim) is an aging warrior from the Golden Cane clan. Charged with protecting the innocent with the power of her cane and the secrets handed down to her by her own master. After decades of blood and violence, Cempaka retired to the mountains where she continued to train her 4 students, Biru (Rez Rahadian), Gerhana (Tara Basro), Dara (Eva Celia Latjuba) and Angin (Ariah Kusumah), a young boy. All four of them are the children of her enemies that she slew. Taking them on as penance she fine tunes their spirit and fighting skills to one day take over her mantle as head of the Golden Cane Clan. Near the end of her life, battling a mysterious disease, Cempaka does something completely unheard of by bestowing the Golden Cane and its powerful secret techniques to the second youngest, Dara.
It seems that Cempaka chose wisely, for as Dara is crowned the successor, Biru and Gerhana betray Cempaka, and try to kill Dara and Angin. Sacrificing her life for the two young ones, Cempaka give the two time to escape into the mountains. There Dara finds solace in a small village by granting her shelter. Too inexperienced to take on Biru OR Gerhana, let alone both, Dara puts her limited skills to use under the tutelage of a mysterious young man named Elang (Nicholas Saputra). It doesn’t take much to guess who Elang is, and soon Dara is neck deep in crash training for the inevitable battle between the two of them and her ex classmates.
“The Golden Cane Warrior” is an ambitious little film for Indonesia. Their action movie scene is booming right ab out now, but they haven’t really delved into the Wu Xia genre very much. I was popping popcorn like a madman during the first act, gleefully watching the fun action scenes. 99% of them with staff’s, a technique second nature to Indonesian martial arts (only surpassed by the old Shaolin Monks or the Philippine stick art known as Escrima). However, the second act of the movie stalls rather badly. Intent on creating a backstory for Dara and Elang, as well as to build up Gerhana and Biru’s cruelty, the director just crammed too much into the film. By the time the action amped up once more in the third act, I was actually starting at my phone for a bit wondering if it would pick up again. Thankfully the end fight scene is almost 15 minutes long and easily the highlight of the whole movie.
The premise of “The Golden Cane Warrior” just reeks of Hong Kong precursors, but with a nice little authentic flair to the movie. Sometimes the camera feels a bit pedestrian compared to those old 1970’s and 1980’s Wu Xia films, but the Indonesian directors are learning fast, as the movie is leaps and bounds better than a handful I watched 3 or 4 years ago. The plotline of a super-secret marital arts style that is SO powerful that it has a special movie that must be controlled religiously is a base part of Wu Xia films. Well, many martial arts films in general really. “Dragonball Z” made a killing off of that, as have games like “Tekken” and “Mortal Kombat”. The buildup for the secret move of the Golden Cane technique was done well, but I REALLY have to say that the actual move just fell flat. There was nothing inventing, awesome or incredibly powerful about it. In fact it seemed more than a bit silly.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=57953[/img]Shot digitally, “The Golden Cane Warrior” comes to Blu-ray with a great looking encode. Outdoor sequences are superb, with wonderful color saturation and the beauty of the natural Indonesian terrain. Fine detail is razor sharp and the costumes look spot on. The dark bits suffer a tad more, with some crushed blacks that obscure a little bit of the detail at night. Shifting back and forth between the two light levels the resulting details is expectedly changing. Even then, the crush is never too bad, only obscuring a bit of detail, while still allowing us to see most everything. It’s a good encode and I only noticed some banding and macroblocking a couple of times, but still not a 100% perfect one.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=57961[/img]The Indonesian 5.1 lossless track is a slight step up from the video, showing off some wonderful directionality and old fashioned sound effects. Dialog is crisp and locked up front in the center channel, and the invigorating and exciting score keeps the listener on the edge of their seat during the action. Punches and kicks come from all directions, keeping the action constantly shifting along the sound stage, and the ambient noise of the forest adds in plenty of background sounds. The old fashioned fist and feet impact noises are definitely old school, packing a real wallop to them. Crunching into flesh and bone with a ferocious power, the LFEL channel is constantly working overtime to add the appropriate weight to said fisticuffs. Dynamic range is solid, but kept in check, allowing for an experience that never really needs one to raise or lower the master volume to understand something, or to wince in pain for an over cooked scene.
Indonesia’s first Wu Xia film is rather well done, with some awesome performances by the lead. I’m a huge fan of Thai action films due to their insane fight choreography, but the acting skills are decidedly subpar. “The Golden Cane Warrior” manages to pull some great performances out the leads, as well as some great fight choreography (well, for a martial arts film ACTED by martial artists). The audio and the video look great for the most part, and despite the lack of extras still has me giving this a solid thumbs up. It’s not high art, but a Wu Xia film is never really meant to be. The action is fun, the choreography is great (although sometimes a bit choppy with the camerawork) and the ending fight scene is well worth the price of admission. Recommended for a solid Rental
Starring: Tara Basro, Christine Hakim, Eva Celia Latjuba
Directed by: Ifa Isfansyah
Written by: Ifa Isfansyah, Mira Lesmana
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: Indonesian: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Indonesian DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 111 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: November 3rd 2015
Buy The Golden Cane Warrior Blu-ray on Amazon
More about Mike