MPI // 2013 // 104 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // October 26th, 2013
In a land of beauty, nothing is as it seems.
Like many, I long for the days of old school '80s style hard-R action movies. Action might not be my favorite delivery system for cinematic violence, but give me some rough-edged exploitation and I'm totally on board. We don't get that kind of thing so often anymore but, while Java Heat isn't anything particularly special, it does deliver some solid shoot-em-up action with a suitably mean villain that basically scratches that old itch.
Supposedly in Indonesia on as an art history student, Jake Wilde (Kellan Lutz, A Warrior's Heart) is at a party where a suicide bombing occurs, killing the Sultana (Atiqah Hasiholan) and many more. When Jake is brought in for questioning by Lieutenant Hashim (Ario Bayu), it soon becomes clear that Jake is more than just a student. He's an ex-marine on a mission to stop the terrorist Malik (Mickey Rourke, Angel Heart) who kidnapped the real sultana, replaced her with a prostitute, and intends to sell her into slavery after acquiring the royal jewels of the Sultan. Skeptical as he is of Jake's intentions, when Hashim's family is kidnapped by the dastardly villain, the two team up on the mission to get everything back.
Make no mistake; Java Heat is B-level material all the way. From the dumb buddy cop banter to the sniveling bad guy to the absolutely obvious plotting, nobody should be confused as to what this movie brings to the table. But with all of those things and the almost constant cycle of fisticuffs, gunfights, and explosions, there's a lot of fun to be had here, as well.
Filmed entirely in Jakarta, the movie has an exotic feel that gives it a very nice tone. Directed by Conor Allyn (Hearts of Freedom) and written by Rob Allyn, his father, both of whom live in Jakarta, they clearly have a love affair with the place. Viewers are taken all over the city, from palaces to religious buildings to the slums, making it all look bright and appealing (well, maybe not the slums). It's a good looking production that takes advantage of its locale to deliver some solid atmosphere.
The action flies hot and heavy, as well, with exciting and well directed fight scenes, including solid punches, realistic takedowns, a ton of bullets, and a few solid explosions. This is what people watch this stuff for and it doesn't disappoint. There probably isn't a five minute stretch of the movie that doesn't feature some kind of action, which keeps everything flowing at a nice steady pace.
Thank goodness, too, because the story, dialog, and acting really don't cut it. As an action hero, Twilight alum Kellan Lutz has about as much charisma as Dolph Lundgren did when he was a big thing, which, while not nothing, is clearly not enough to power a movie through words. Mickey Rourke is as hammy as he's been in some time, with plenty of scene chewing and a grumbly, vague accent that, late in the game, we find out is actually French. He's always fun to watch, though, and the character is totally scuzzy, so I'm not really complaining all that much. The lone bright spot in the cast is Ario Bayu, an Indonesian actor who does a really good job as the cop looking to take care of his family and his country at the same time. Too bad he's saddled with some terrible buddy cop banter, but we're here for the action and, on that, Java Heat delivers in full.
Java Heat comes to Blu-ray from MPI in a fairly decent edition. The 2.35:1/1080p image is kind of grainy and, though some of that is certainly the intention of the filmmakers, it does sacrifice detail to attain its filmic quality. This is especially true in the darker scenes which, unfortunately, are also the climactic scenes. They wind up looking murky with inconsistent black levels. The brighter scenes look quite a bit better and show off the nice warm colors of the streets of Jakarta. The sound is quite a bit better, with a strong Master Audio mix that is very active in the rear channels, especially during the gunfights and explosions, but there's also decent work for simple ambient noise. Oddly, there's also a lossless PCM stereo mix included, which sounds fine, but is totally pointless.
The only meaningful extra is a half-hour making-of featurette that gets into most aspects of the production. The best part is listening to Mickey Rourke who, always in character, discusses his role in a bad French accent. Otherwise, it's pretty generic, but interesting enough. A trailer fills out the disc.
If you like your action fast, your location exotic, your characters shallow, and your story a little bland, then Java Heat is probably for you. It's nothing special or great, but it delivers on its promise in the way that an old Segal picture did twenty years ago. As a throwback to that era, it works just fine, whether it was actually going for that or not.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated R