After Pandu witnesses a murder and injures local gangster boss Guru, his Deaf father Sandi, a gangster himself (but with a good heart), turns against his crew in order to protect him. When father and son ask a police officer for help, he unsurprisingly refuses out of fear of reprisal. Guru unleashes his men to pursue the escapees, including a vicious killer known as The Barber. Pursued with nowhere to go, putting the lives of everyone who helps him at risk, Sandi will have no choice but to face what’s coming for him.
Even though the plot is rather classic, the fight sequences are entertaining and reminiscent of films such as THE RAID and THE NIGHT COMES FOR US, which are clearly inspirations for US-Indonesian first-time director Randolph Zaini. I would also throw in the cinema of Brillante Mendoza (KANATAY, TAKLUB) as an influence as well. The acting is top notch (Muzakki Ramdhan who plays Pandu is a natural and was previously seen in Joko Anwar’s GUNDALA), and the finale where our Deaf character Sandi fights not only the remaining gang members but his own demons is a clever mingling of artistic choice and circumnavigation of Indonesian censorship laws.
Shot in Indonesia in difficult circumstances due to the pandemic, PREMAN shows the potential of a great director in the making. Given the way he combines both his cultures to create entertaining cinema, I’ll be first in line to see what Zaini comes up with next. (ANNICK MAHNERT)