Energetic and well-shot, producer Mike Wiluan’s martial arts Western is anything but boring.
When two brothers, Jamar (Ario Bayu) and Suwo (Yoshi Sudarso), visit the land of Java to avenge their father, they find the place under the control of Dutch colonialists. Led by the ruthless Van Trach (Reinout Bussemaker), villagers live in constant terror, as a band of enforcers viciously threaten the town into submission. Naturally, the brothers have to step up and bring some rough and tumble justice.
A wild combination of martial arts fantasy and western cowboy genre tropes, “Buffalo Boys” really has its moments. Stars Bayu and Sudarso are magnetic and their brotherly chemistry credible, even as most everything around them gets ever more ridiculous over the film’s running time. There is one scene early where a young woman is introduced riding a water buffalo in fully high speed gallop. It’s really striking. No doubt that there are some special effects being employed, but this image, repeated during a key scene later, stands out as something completely different.
Director Wiluan, whose filmography includes producing services on 2015’s “Hitman: Agent 47” and last year’s smash hit “Crazy Rich Asians,” makes an impressive debut behind the camera with “Buffalo Boys.” While the narrative is a bit uneven, the outlandish action is almost non-stop with some clever twists and turns. While this was Singapore’s submission for the foreign language Oscar, there is quite a bit of English spoken throughout the movie. This element is interesting, especially since the two brothers are very adept at floating between the various languages.
“Buffalo Boys” is a fun, frenzied neo-western, in the vein of the Italian “spaghetti” variety, but with a marital arts dimension. And then there’s the water buffalos that are like something out of a Marvel movie. This is one inventive film that won’t lull you to sleep.