Saturday, May 18, 2024

‘The Big 4’ is An Exercise in Hardcore Hilarity

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I am not familiar with Timo Tjahjanto, though I enjoyed The Night Comes For Us. Despite that, I have yet to seek out his other work. However, The Big 4 has me adding his other works to my queue. 

Less brutal than The Night Comes For UsThe Big 4 is by no means a lesser work. A comedy action film, The Big 4 is just as relentlessly gory, but Tjahjanto takes us on a wild ride of cartoonish violence instead of pummeling us into submission. As a result, it never feels like it’s running out of steam for over two and a half hours.

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From left to right: Topan (Abimana Aryasatya), Jenggo (Arie Kriting), Pelor (Kristol Immanuel), and Alpha (Lutesha)

There’s a vitality to Tjahjanto’s filmmaking. Along with Batara Goempar’s acrobatic camera that gleefully switches between subjective and objective with enthusiastic precision. This enhances the comedic and often surrealistic nature of the film.

To put it another way, Tjahjanto and Goempar have fun. 

The Big Four brims with a profound sense of play. Blood splatters onto the frame in the middle of one fight scene, not because of any attempt at being a documentary. But instead, as an exclamation point for a gag, bringing a stark Roadrunner and Wild E. Coyote vibe.

The plot of The Big Four is an old favorite of mine. Co-written by Tjahjanto and Johanna Wattimena, the story is the age-old classic “let’s get the band back together.” Only here, the band is a motley crew of assassins who only kill bad people rediscovering each other after Dina (Putri Marino), the daughter of their murdered mentor Petrus (Budi Ros), comes asking questions.

Dina, a cop, witnessed her father being murdered on the day she joined the force. She, of course, has no way of knowing that he had just retired from his noble shady life of vigilantism. Nor that the man she saw fleeing was not the murderer but the leader of the Big Four, Topan (Abimana Aryasatya), and practically his adopted son.

The other three members of the entourage of misfits are the femme fatale with Tourette syndrome, Alpha (Lutesha), the sniper obsessed with being zen Jenggo (Arie Kriting), and the babyface member struggling to find his talent other than being bait Pelor (Kristo Immanuel). 

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Antonia Sandoval (Marthino Lio) and Alo (Michelle Tahalea) with their nameless, faceless hench-people

The script doesn’t have anything resembling an arc for any of these characters. Except Maybe Topan having a massive crush on Dina and the inevitable rom-com aspects coming to their forgone conclusions. Even Dina’s Lawful Good attitude doesn’t change as she tries to arrest the four after all is said and done. The Big Four had such fun dismembering body parts and blowing up people and buildings that I didn’t care. 

Tjahjanto and Wattimena do an excellent job of giving enough story to carry us from scene to scene without overloading the plot. In a rather ingenious way, Dina is the one who inadvertently gets the team back together. Though rusty, they still have it. A good thing, too, since an unknown bad guy, the same one who killed Pretus, wants them dead too.

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Jenggo (Kriting) and Alpha (Lutesha) face off against Alo (Tahalea)

The bad guy Antonio Sandoval (Marthino Lio) is the usual type of violent psychopath movies like The Big 4 usually have as antagonists. However, Antonio is joined at the hip by the slim and gorgeous Alo (Michelle Tahalea), who, despite having a role that gives her little more than to stand and be pretty, does so with enough personality that her death at the end is just as gratifying.

Or maybe it’s because she tried to kill my beloved Alpha and merely got what was coming to her. 

Much of the comedy may seem vulgar or broad. For example, one scene has Dina being accidentally drugged by Topan and Jenggo. However, the physicality of the scene is impressive, with Marino and Aryasatya reminding us that the physicality of action and comedy are roughly the same. The humor may be slapstick and a little crude for some, but I found it quite well meshed with my mild-mannered vulgarity.

In addition, I loved how Tjahjanto and Goempar linger on the character’s faces. Aryasatya, in particular, has a mug tailor-made for a noir, or as The Big 4, shows comedy. However, the duo also understands that framing is critical. There’s a prevailing wisdom that drama is a close-up, and comedy is a wide shot. This is true, but Tjahjnato and Goempar also understand that comedy is cramming two characters in a small room and having two characters have opposed emotional reactions to a mutual understanding.

The Big 4 may not be as deep as The Night Comes For Us, but damn, does it fly by. Tjahjanto and his crew imbue The Big 4 with an infectious and vibrant energy that makes all the blood, guts, and crude humor not only work but work well. More than anything, Tjahjanto embraces the cockamamie, and that’s more than enough for me.

Images courtesy of Netflix

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