As I have mentioned many times recently, action films with a female vigilante as the protagonist is one of the biggest latest trends in Asian cinema and it was Indonesia’s turn to come up with an entry in the category (although one could also consider “Golden Cane Warrior” an entry), in a film that stands apart due to its comic book aesthetics, since the characters are based on Skylar Comics. Let us see what it is about.
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The City of Batavia is infested with robbery and crime, particularly after a masked villain named Shadow has declared open war on all lawful citizens, including the police. In the midst of the turmoil, Bono, a traumatized director seeks to produce a super-hero movie that will also provide a positive role model for a population that seems to believe “crime is the only way”. After a number of failures to convince producers, he decides to proceed by himself, with the help of a friend, Wawan, a tailor who becomes his assistant. Eventually, he stumbles upon Srimaya, a rich girl who works as a waitress and dreams of becoming an actress. Soon, Srimaya turns into an actress/vigilante, while Shadow and his gang of girl fighters escalate their attack. The showdown is inevitable while a number of shuttering secrets come to the fore.
Ubay Fox directs a film that follows all the rules of the superhero movie, with the “loser turned hero” concept being the dominant one. In that fashion, we have a masked vigilante and a masked villain, both with hidden identities and a secret agenda (although Valentine’s actually belongs to Bono), a comic relief character, a number of enemies that get beaten, a loss that becomes a turning point, and a spectacular finale. However, Fox has also managed to include a number of social comments in the film, mainly dealing with corruption, the concept of the superhero on a psychological level, loss and its consequences, while the movie industry also gets its share of criticism.
The aforementioned, however, do not mean that we are dealing with a psychological drama; on the contrary, “Valentine” is a genuine action film, with the work done in that particular department being exceptional. Robert Suwandi’s action choreography is one of the best we have seen in the latest years, with him presenting a number of martial arts scenes (mostly hand-to-hand) that are fast, violent, and quite original. The sequence in the two vans during the car chase, the one in the abandoned building, and most of all the 3 on 1 scene close to the finale are truly spectacular. Joel F. Zola’s cinematography, who follows the “Guy Richie Rules”, with the sudden zoom ins/outs and the many changes of perspective, also finds its apogee in these scenes along with Aziz Nurmawan and David LG Hughes’s editing, that has the movie moving in a relatively fast pace during the non-action scenes, and on a frantic during the rest. Will A’s costume design is another aspect worth mentioning , although the ones that stand out in particular are the ones of the three villain girls, in trashy/exploitation fashion. The CGI have some issues, but do not fault the general impression the visuals leave significantly.
The acting is not on a very high level, as is usual the case in the category, although Estelle Linden is quite convincing in the titular role. Sasku Aisyawara, Nabila Putri and Aliza Putri have very few lines as the three villain girls but manage to steal the show with their presence.
“Valentine: Dark Avenger” is a more than worthy addition to both the female vigilante and the comic adaptation categories, and the fact that it seems to kickstart another cinematic universe is a welcome surprise.