Russell Crowe's Noah didn't get past Indonesia's Film Censorship Board (LSF), with chairman Mukhlis Paeni saying the depiction of the Islamic prophet would be 'fishing for trouble' in the Muslim-majority nation. Meanwhile, the chairman's signature of approval flashed on movie screens in Indonesia for the opening weekend of The Raid 2: Berandal ('Thugs'), a blood-soaked, knuckle-smashing action flick that delves into Jakarta's underworld.
Gareth Evans (the Welsh director, not the former Australian foreign minister) staged gang fights in Jakarta's popular shopping districts, had car chases hurtling along its underpasses and in one memorable scene sent a vehicle flying through a TransJakarta bus stop (see trailer above) to make this sequel to The Raid: Redemption, the globally acclaimed action film that put the Indonesian martial art of pencak silat on the map.
Online news outlets reported on Monday that the film was banned in Malaysia, though the reasons are unclear.
Apart from a few jumpy moments when snippets of dialogue appear to have been judged too harsh for Indonesian cinemas, little seems to have been censored in the local release of The Raid 2, which features lawless gang leaders, karaoke escorts, a pornography den and human flesh being torn apart by a creative array of weaponry, from cardboard cutters through to smashed bottles, hammers and baseball bats.
As brutal as the action sequences are, The Raid 2 and its previous installment are a source of pride for Indonesian cinema-goers. Welshman Evans is at the helm, but the rest of the cast and crew are nearly all Indonesians. The fighting style is Indonesian, the bulk of the dialogue is in Bahasa Indonesia, and apart from one scene in which Jakarta is inexplicably blanketed in snow, the setting is recognisably local — a sighting of the Blok M shopping district sent a cheer through the audience at the screening I attended.
The first film not only received a warm welcome at home but went on to win numerous awards at film festivals around the world. The Raid 2 made its premiere at Sundance Film Festival in January to rave reviews before entering Indonesian cinemas last week, where it has so far had a positive reception. The general enthusiasm for the film stands in contrast to the typical criticism of Indonesian movies offering little more than slapstick humour, cheesy romance or B-grade horror. With stylish camerawork and slick fight scenes, the Raid films bring Indonesian cinema to a new level at home and abroad.
Perhaps it is partly this prestige that helped the film pass quietly by the censorship board, which is not known to crack down heavily on depictions of violence but does not usually let through such an unflinching level of gore. For viewers who can get past the Tarantino-esque violence and the Other-ness of the cast and setting, The Raid 2 is showing in Australian cinemas with an R-rating.