Bulan dan Pria Terhebat

Bulan dan Pria Terhebat Review

Dept. of Action McActioners


Bulan dan Pria Terhebat, the latest actioner written and directed by Ghaz Abu Bakar (Polis Evo), has an incredibly simple and straightforward plot. The movie centers around Bulan (Zahirah Macwilson), a special forces trainee from Indonesia who finds herself in Malaysia on the trail of a human trafficking ring who has her sister. Along the way, she enlists the help of an e-hailing driver, Haris (Zizan Razak), and his two skater boy friends, Arab (Bell Ngasri) and Daud (Alif Hadi) – the aforementioned “Pria Terhebat” – to help save her sister and take down the bad guys. Plenty of bishing, boshing, and booming ensues. And… and that’s pretty much it…

Umapagan Ampikaipakan: Now that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Keeping the plot relatively predictable gives Ghaz Abu Bakar the time to focus on what matters in movies like this one: the action. Which is, for the most part, kinda fun. I mean, it still suffers from the Malaysian action movie curse of having incredibly overzealous editors, but Bulan dan Pria Terhebat sets itself apart by having a lead who is able to pull off a lot of her action sequences convincingly.

Bahir Yeusuff: Who, I was surprised to learn today, isn’t Indonesian! Now, I’m no expert, but I think she pulled off the accent pretty well.

At any rate, I think Bulan dan Pria Terhebat is a fine enough movie and would have been a decent time at the cinemas. Ghaz Abu Bakar did a lot well, but as always, there were some bits that fell a little short for me. The big showdown at the end of the movie needed some work (there was an explosion behind Maya Karin’s Tony that looked a little suspect), but Ghaz did manage the expectations of the fight very well and I didn’t find myself lost in all the bishing and boshing. Sometimes that is the best you can hope for.

There were also some narrative issues. The same ones that keep cropping up in almost every local movie. So much so that I don’t know why they keep doing it. In Bulan dan Pria Terhebat, it’s the addition of Haris, Arab, and Daud being skateboarders. I don’t know why these extra “character” elements are thrown in if they aren’t going to do anything proper with it.

UA: Making Haris and his friends skateboarders is fine, as long as it actually serves a narrative purpose. Here it felt like nothing more than a cute throwaway character quirk. There was so much they could have done by leaning into skater culture, or having the guys use their “skills” as skater boys to get out of a difficult situation later in the movie. God knows it would have been more believable than having them become action heroes at the end. A lot of the time, these sidenotes end up being nothing more than filler. Which really detracts from what could have been a far more complete film.

Atomic Bulan

Bulan dan Pria Terhebat

UA: Those minor nitpicks aside. I do think this was a competent first attempt at making a Malay action movie with a female lead. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that hasn’t happened before right?

BY: It really does seem that way. It was a stroke of genius from Ghaz to have Bulan be the lead character, allowing her to do all the action heavy lifting, while leaving Zizan do what Zizan does best. He is a charming (enough) character in this and he never gets too swept up in everything. What I found really interesting was that although it is Bulan’s story, we are following it from Haris’ point of view. He is just this regular e-hailing driver guy that has, by some quirk of the universe, gotten himself wrapped up in an international prostitution/human smuggling ring. His role is merely to support Bulan on her mission.

The skater boy thing really felt like character filler, but Zizan’s abilities as a driver is really what comes into play in the adventure.

UA: It’s something of an action thriller trope. We’ve seen directors do similar things in movies like Taxi and Collateral, that focus on an everyman who is inadvertently dragged along on some crazy misadventure. In this case, it’s also a calculated decision on the part of the filmmakers. Zizan is too big a name in Malay cinema to be relegated to merely being a sidekick. So it makes sense to tell this story from his POV.

Kill Bulan: Volume 2

Bulan dan Pria Terhebat

UA: Given that the original release of the movie was hampered by the pandemic, it would be hard to tell if the silent, stoic, kick-ass female lead is something that Malaysian audiences would be drawn to. We’re seeing more and more of these movies come out of Hollywood. Nikita was way ahead of its time. But between Atomic Blonde, Anna, Peppermint, Gunpowder Milkshake, Revenge, and Netflix’s upcoming Kate, the female led action thriller is now pretty much a genre on its own.

I know I’d like to see more of this sort of thing from a Malaysian perspective. It could be a lot of fun.

BY: Heck, I’ll do you one better. I want to see the sequel to this movie. I thought the banter between the three guys was excellent and completely believable. The way Bulan’s character accepted these three jokers as part of her crew, and as useful companions, was great. This may be a way in to creating new Malaysian characters. Get the action capable actor to do all the action bits and then throw in the famous names to back her up.

Speaking of which, the Malaysian film industry is doing quite well with these action movies. Granted J2: J Retribusi wasn’t great, and Pasal Kau was objectively bad, but the action guys from those movies were decent. And I’m not just talking about the action sequences. Both Hairul Azreen and Zul Ariffin aren’t bad actors, and they pull off all the fighting stuff really well too. It’s definitely a step in the right direction when compared to the time KRU were trying to convince everyone that Saiful Apek was believable as a vigilante crime fighter.

UA: For me, these recent spate of action movies are just a few steps shy from being excellent. The ingredients are all there, but the execution always seems to fall a little short. (I am also not referring to the J movies. Those fell way short.)

A lot of the time I feel like I want to merge these productions. Like I want the attention to detail that Adrian Teh put into Paskal, with the writing and character development that Joel Soh did with Polis Evo 2.  

BY: I think you’re onto something there.

UA: Right? There is a constant tug of war between what filmmakers think audiences want and trying to balance that with something that is actually coherent and entertaining. It’s an action movie, but we must have slapstick comedy or the masses won’t like it. It’s a romance, but we’ve got to throw in all of these religious elements so we don’t offend anyone. You know what I mean?

BY: There has to be a fine line. I think Adrian Teh did it well with Paskal, with just enough of a story to justify the action. And I think Ghaz Abu Bakar has done pretty well with Bulan dan Pria Terhebat. Also, can I just say, Maya Karin as a hitwoman? Sign me right up! I thought she played that strong silent killer well. She wields that sniper rifle like a pro.

UA: Agreed! I think a Tony spinoff would be a lot of fun. (But they need to put Maya through some proper fight school. That final showdown between Bulan and Tony was a little choppy.)

Inglorious Bulan

Bulan dan Pria Terhebat

UA: Ghaz Abu Bakar has done rather well with the action movies under his belt. (I rank Polis Evo rather highly on my list of favourite action movies.) But what I’d like to see is for him break away from the Yusof Haslam/Skop school of action filmmaking and really go crazy. I saw hints of that in Bulan dan Pria Terhebat, but I feel like with a bit more money, and the right screenwriter, he can really let loose.

BY: Also a producer that could help him push past the established Malaysian tropes of slapstick comedy and overwrought melodrama would be great.

Malaysian filmmakers don’t need to try and reinvent the wheel. Just look at the great Hollywood movies and reappropriate them for the Malaysian setting. I’m not saying take a script and just run Google Translate over it (I’m looking at you Cinta Kolesterol), but try and use an American action film as the jumping off point the way Polis Evo did with Bad Boys and Lethal Weapon. There is a lot to be learned from what has proven to be successful in the past without trying to figure it out from scratch. The action beats, the family drama, the family comedy, it’s all there for the picking.

UA: Until then, however, Polis Evo 1 and 2, Paskal and Wira, Bulan dan Pria Terhebat, would make for a good action movie marathon. All of them are good enough, and entertaining enough, and different enough, with each one moving the needle just enough. It’s progress.

BY: At least until we finally get to see Air Force The Movie: Selagi Bernyawa.

UA: And Polis Evo 3.

Bulan dan Pria Terhebat is now streaming on Netflix.

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