Monday, April 27, 2009

Gope T. Samtani's Hell Raiders (1985)

Gope T. Samtani's Hell Raiders (1985) is about the Indonesian independence from the Dutch. The central characters of the film are the Dutch soldiers, who are arrogant and relentless, and the Indonesian rebels, from the recently-wed to the recently-fled to petty thieves and hard-nosed revolutionaries. No one central hero or villain emerges amongst the cast, even with the inclusion of Indonesian stars Eva Arnaz and Barry Prima. Samtani's film is a portrait of his country's struggle and it's made with a lot of heart. I can only imagine what it would have been like sitting in a theatre in Jakarta during this film's premiere. Hell Raiders is Samtani's only directorial credit and it's a doozy: epic in scale and length with no shortage of machine-gun action with numerous explosions and as many blood-squibs blown. As a kid in the 80s, I lived on a steady diet of action films, direct-to-video horror, and pee-wee football. While watching Stallone in Ted Kotcheff's First Blood (1982), Norris in Joseph Zito's Missing in Action (1984), or Schwarzenegger in Mark Lester's Commando (1985), for example, I never thought about any of the political over- or undertones of the films. I was too wrapped up in the soldier action, feasting my eyes on one-man killing machines. Big explosions and big guns were symbols of 80s action movies, but now as an adult looking back, I realize that some of those films had something to say. However, those films were also spectacular--the filmmakers were going to die trying to entertain the viewer, as well.Hell Raiders is a film of that elk, as its English title conveys. Samtani shoots his film for coverage, sacrificing the slick shot to show as much as possible within the frame. Raiders lives and breathes with its action scenes, as soon as one ends, another starts up. The final thirty minutes of the film is a Dutch massacre of an Indonesian village followed by the Indonesian rebels retaliation at Dutch headquarters. Plenty of bullets are shot, and many squibs explode. The squibs are slick, but the blood is thin. Most characters look as if they spilled their Cherry Kool-Aid all down the front of their clothes. I did that a lot too in the 80s, so I know. As such, the budget looks tight for this epic of a film. What Samtani lacks in money, he most certainly makes up with emotion. It's hard not to love these characters and follow their quest for independence. Hell Raiders is also two hours of rousing 80s action. Take your pick...or take both.

1 comment:

Mr.LargePackage said...

Any film that draws a comparison to Commando and has cherry Kool-Aid is large and in charge.