Guys, let's play a game: close your eyes and think, when was the last time you watched a good local action movie?
If you can't think of any at the top of your head, fret not; we had the same problem too.
The last time we were truly impressed by a local action movie was when 'PASKAL: The Movie' was released last year.
In fact, we even pegged 'PASKAL: The Movie' as the best action movie of 2018
And because 'PASKAL: The Movie' has set this really high bar for us to measure upcoming local action movies with, our expectations are no doubt pretty high.
If you're longing for a good action flick, there's some good news for you: the same team that made 'PASKAL' has promised that their next action movie will be even more badass than 'PASKAL'.
'WIRA' follows Hassan (Hairul Azreen), who returns to his hometown after a long stint in the army. His return, however, has a more sinister reason behind it: he plans to rescue his dad Munas (Dato Hilal Azman) and his sister Zain (Fify Azmi) from the grasp of evil kingpin Raja (Dain Iskandar Said).
Of course, things don't go according to plan, as Hassan and Zain get themselves into more trouble.
So, how does 'WIRA' compare to 'PASKAL: The Movie'? Surprisingly, the newcomer actually held its ground pretty well.
Here's what we think:
#1 Fight here, fight there, fight everywhere
We'll get this out of the way: the action scenes in 'WIRA' are top notch. During a recent press conference, the film's director Adrian Teh told us that he wants 'WIRA' to have "Hollywood-level fight scenes, but on a Malaysian budget", and we thought that he achieved just that.
There aren't many local movies where we marveled over its action scenes, but 'WIRA' managed to change that. There were action scenes from beginning to the end, involving fists, guns, knives, parangs, and even swords.
There were lots of bones breaking, noses getting smashed and plenty of torsos getting slashed, and we loved every second of it.
But here's the thing: these fight scenes are there just the sake of having fight scenes in an action movie. Somehow, Teh managed to better each fight scene with the next fight scene.
We thought the moving bus scene was the highlight of the film with the choreography and the camera work...until it culminated in the epic 10-minute fight between Hairul Azreen and famed Indoensian martial artist Yayan Ruhian towards the end of the movie.
Of course we have to talk about Yayan Ruhian, right? Besides being the big bad (OK, second big bad after Raja, played by Dain Said) in the movie, Yayan also acts as the action choreographer for 'WIRA'.
Therefore, the action sequences were a little bit more over-the-top, yet polished and extremely fun to watch.
#2 Butt-kicking tag team
Hairul Azreen proves yet again why he is Malaysia's top action star. Hairul is pretty convincing as Hassan; a pained, ex-underground fighter who came back to save his family. In fight scenes, especially those involving Yayan (who appeared in 'John Wick 3', in case you didn't know), he truly held his own.
But the star of the show, in our opinion, is Fify Azmi, who plays Hassan's ass-kicking sister in the movie. As opposed to to playing a damsel in distress, Fify plays Zain, a strong female character who doesn't back down from a fight.
We are enarmored with Fify's confidence in the movie, be it in the action sequences or the stunts she had to perform for the movie.
Also, we love how Teh threw Fify's character into a fight with scary big men, as if to say, 'So what I'm a girl? I will bust your ass!'.
Again, there weren't many strong female characters portrayed in local movies, so it's refreshing to see that Zain could very well be a female hero that young girls could look up to.
#3 Isi tersirat
As expected from a full-blown action movie, you won't get a deep plot or elaborate character building (in fact, the plotline was very thin, but more on that later). But what this movie does have are two key messages: standing up for yourself and family comes first.
The act of revolt by the town people against Raja's reign, led by Hassan and Inspector Boon (Henley Hii), teaches us about the importance of standing up for yourself, and doing what you think is right, no matter how oppressed you feel.
Of course, as with the theme of most local films these days, family plays an important role in the narrative of the movie. We love how Teh centers the movie around Hassan's love for his family.
The sibling-y love between Hassan and Zain is beliveable, but we do wish that there was more of a character arc for both characters, though.
As fun 'WIRA' was as an action film, it is not entirely flawless.
It suffers from a very clichéd plot, like all action movies do. There's really no plot twists or scenes that make you stop and think about life, and the storyline is pretty predictable at times.
But to be fair to the director, he did his best to move the plot along without boring you too much with the mundane stuff, and then he proceeds to drown you in a wave of mind-blowing fight scenes.
Also, we weren't really a fan of some of the dialogues in the movie. They can get really awkward, but thankfully, they're few and far between.
And sadly, the movie also fell victim to the 'disease' that plagues most local movies: overacting by some of its characters.
So, does all that make 'WIRA' a bad movie? No, not at all.
If you go into the cinema thinking it's an action movie, then you're going to have a hell of a time. The action scenes are worth price of the admission ticket itself, to be honest.
Adrian Teh wants 'WIRA' to be a Hollywood-level action flick. Safe to say, he got his wish.
PS: Remember to hang back for a pretty interesting mid-credit scene.
'WIRA' is now showing in cinemas nationwide.