Wira (2019)

Directed by
Man I hope I never have to fight Yayan Ruhian
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-03-13

Hassan joins the army to get away from the criminal gangs he fell in with in his youth. Eight years later he returns home when he hears his young sister Zain is in trouble with his former boss, the gangster Raja. He asks his father and sister to leave town with him and pleads with Raja to let them go. Raja says he'll write off the debts they owe him if Hassan and Zain can beat his son and daughter in the ring. Seems fair?

WIRA is Malaysia's contribution to what is now a genre of martial arts films inspired by The Raid: Redemption (and the progenitor Ong Bak). It follows a familiar template - brave, honourable and exceptionally capable young man reluctantly has to fight waves of goons employed by the villain until he works his way up to the big boss... basically a video game come to life.

Such a film requires a star with real talent if it's going to work, and WIRA certainly gets one in the form of stuntman turned actor Hairul Azreen, He is definitely up to the challenge, a skilled martial artist who is in incredible condition (his abs are almost surreal) and who has the dedication needed to film the sort of punishing fights that Yayan Ruhian cooks up for his cast.

Whilst Hassan is definitely the hero of the film his sister (Fify Azmi) is almost an equal partner, indeed she gets the film's first fight scene - which is the first scene period - fighting Raja's daughter Vee (Ismi Melinda). Apparently Fify Azmi wasn't a fighter before, but after training eight hours a day for two months in preparation she more than carries the role.

WIRA does not skimp on the action, with fight scenes well distributed throughout, escalating in scale and ambition until the climactic battle with - who else - Yayan Ruhian that is as thrilling as any he has been involved in. The fight scenes are of a very high calibre, so technical and yet so brutal, with an impressive variety of weapons and environments involved. It's a fantastic achievement from director Adrian Teh and his team, and the results are up there with the best.

I love films like this, and I am incredibly grateful that people are willing to put themselves through the gruelling training and shooting that it requires to produce them (and to Netflix for championing them). Apparently there is a sequel to WIRA in the works already, which is trailered by a post-credits tease here. It looks like it'll be quite different, but they can certainly count me in when it arrives.