Indonesia has its own wuxia genre, called silat, which actually refers to a class of indigenous martial arts. The genre has been abandoned for many years, but Ifa Isfanya decided to revive it, using a budget of $2 millions, a sum quite exuberant for the Indonesian film industry.
In distinct wuxia style, the story revolves around Cempaka, a female Silat master known as The Golden Cane Warrior, and her four students, Biru, Gerhana, Dara and little Angin, all of whom are children of enemies she killed in battle. Cempaka plans to name her successor, who is to receive her powerful Golden Cane along with her ultimate technique. However, when she names Dara, Biru, who is the strongest fighter amongst them, is infuriated, and conspires with Gerhana. Their scheme ends up with Cempaka dead from poisoning, the Golden Cane in Biru’s hands, and Dara and Angin hunted by the Red Wing Warriors, a clan whose leader was a friend of Cempaka and is tricked into believing Dara and Angin murdered her. The two fugitives end up in a village where a strong fighter named Elang resides.
Isfansyah directs a martial arts film that also entails themes of loyalty, integrity, ambition and betrayal, and in that aspect, his characters have more depth than usual, in similar films. However, this is an action film, not a social drama, and the fact becomes obvious from the beginning, with the action scenes appearing very early. The same applies to the film’s big budget, which was particularly implemented in the cinematography, with Gunnar Nimpuno presenting images of rare beauty, both in the forest and in the fields of Indonesia. Another point of excellence is the music, with a number of epic tracks that accompany the cinematography magnificently.
However, he does not avoid the clichés of the genre, with the story actually following one of the most common motifs of the genre, with the hero losing from his enemy, meeting a powerful teacher, training, and then facing the enemy in the finale. Isfansyah even entailed a sequence with training at the sunset, which must be the most common in the whole wuxia genre. Furthermore, the fact that he wants to include a deeper than usual background results in the film becoming a bit tiresome during the middle, where the action is rather scarce.
In terms of choreography on the other hand, “The Golden Cane Warrior” definitely excels, with the actors giving their best in all of the fights, which feature impressive pole (cane) techniques. Particularly the last one is utterly magnificent, featuring a rare sequence of double fighting. There are some moments, though, that it seems like the actors are moving in fast forward, although I am not sure of the fact.
The film definitely excels in terms of acting, with all of the protagonists presenting their characters with elaborateness. The ones who stand apart are Christine Hakim as Cempaka and Reza Rahadian as Biru. The first also acts as the narrator in the beginning of the film with Isfansyah taking full advantage of her magnificently imposing voice. Reza Rahadian is one of the most popular actors in the country and that is probably the reason an “evil” character has such a large role in this kind of film. However, his performance is great, artfully depicting all the aspects of his character.
“The Golden Cane Warrior” is a worthy addition to the genre, which would be even better if Isfansyah had made up his mind about shooting a film similar to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” or one similar to “The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter”.