The Jakarta Post
In spite of its mediocre costumes and visual effects, Jagoan Instan (Instant Hero) provides an interesting glimpse into what kind of life a superhero might have in Indonesia.
In the new movie Jagoan Instan (Instant Hero), there is no genetically engineered monster or chemical weapons threatening the city.
Instead, the biggest enemy of this new Indonesian superhero is a group of unscrupulous businesspeople who orchestrate illegal logging.
The danger is less sinister than in the average Marvel superhero flick, but that doesn't mean Jagoan Instan is tedious. The film wittily develops a realistic idea of what kind of superhero the country should have.
The hero is Bumi (played by comic Kemal Palevi), a young man living in a poor Jakarta neighborhood. Bumi is struggling to pay the medical bills of his ill father. Things get worse when his pretty girlfriend, Pertiwi (Anisa Rahma), ends their relationship to be with the rich but unattractive Romeo (played by handsome TV star Kevin Julio, uglified with false buck teeth).
Bumi's pathetic character takes an interesting turn when his uncle, Slamet Gunadi (Dede Yusuf), offers him the chance to become a superhero.
Slamet is a retired superhero who is not recognized by the public, simply because no comic artist has made a comic series about him.
Given Dede's sturdy looks and past career as an action star, it is somehow not hard to imagine him as a former superhero.
Aided by a box of powerful serum from his American superhero friends, Slamet turns Bumi into superhero, with the moniker Jagoan Instan.
The name, Jagoan Instan, reflects the nature of Bumi's superpower. One serum injection instantly gives him extraordinary strength and the ability to fly, lasting for 24 hours.
Bumi's first mission is to stop the country's deforestation. Donning his red costume, Jagoan Instan fights illegal loggers in the forest and nabs corrupt lawyers and judges in court.
In a funny scene, Jagoan Instan intercepts the handing of bribe money between a group of business executives and a group of politicians. He takes two boxes of apples and pours them over the table.
'So these are Malang apples and these are Washington apples,' says Jagoan Instan, revealing piles of US dollars and rupiah banknotes hidden among the apples, a reference to an infamous bribery case involving former lawmaker Angelina Sondakh.
His investigation leads Bumi to confront Ratu Gelondongan (Meriam Bellina), an eccentric businesswoman who leads the illegal logging.
Noted scriptwriter Musfar Yasin, (Get Married and Naga Bonar 2) delicately splashes ample local references throughout the movie.
In the opening scene, Slamet asked the favors of three American superheroes to handle the floods in Jakarta, a caterpillar outbreak in farms across Java and forest fires.
The film also touches on the wide wealth gap between rich and poor Indonesians.
Bumi confiscates billions of rupiah in bribes, but receives a daily stipend of only Rp 200,000 (US$ 14) for his service as superhero. The money can barely cover the medical bills of his father. In the circumstances, it becomes challenging for Bumi to keep his hands off the dirty cash.
Jagoan Instan is filled with plenty of flying scenes, which appear to be generated with drone imagery, slings and CGI. It fails to produce realistic imagery, but it's not disappointing either. Although the visual effect isn't awfully smooth, it's amusing to see Bumi flies around and sit near the golden flames of the National Monument (Monas) in Jakarta.
As the hero, Jagoan Instan does not appear in shiny, body-hugging costume, nor has he a muscular body. This may be intentional on director Fajar Bustomi's part, figuring a realistic image of a superhero coming from an underprivileged upbringing.
Bumi's first costume is a random mix of Superman-inspired garments coupled with batik cape and belt.
'It was made by the tailor near my house,' Bumi answers when Ratu Gelondongan questions his ugly costume.
As Bumi, comic Kemal demonstrates his dramatic side, while occasionally throwing aside a hilarious joke.
The appearance of Youtubers Jovial da Lopez and Andovi da Lopez as Romeo's hardcore punk sidekicks may cheer up teenage viewers. But the real refreshing performance here is presented by puppet master Ki Manteb Soedharsono.
He stars as Mbah Parto, the spiritual guardian of a mountain in Java who is saved by Jagoan Instan moments before the mountain erupts. He is calm and wise, yet does not hesitate to scold Jagoan Instan in Javanese ' one of the funniest moments in the movie.
Jagoan Instan still has a long, long way to go to match the adrenaline-pumping action of Hollywood superheroes movies, but it is a commendable effort to revive the public's interest in local heroes.
Indonesia had its own superhero fever moment some time ago, when the live-action comic series Gundala Putra Petir (Gundala, Son of Thunder) hit theaters in 1981. Just last year, Garuda Superhero tried to revive audiences' thirst for a new Indonesian superhero, but the film was widely criticized for its excessive use of CGI.
The film, now in theaters, is not the end of Jagoan Instan's journey. As the final scene suggests, Bumi still has a task to defeat his nemesis ' perhaps we can look forward to a second helping of Jagoan Instan.
' Photos Courtesy of Starvision
(Starvision, 96 minutes)
Directed by Fajar Bustomi
Cast: Kemal Palevi, Kevin Julio, Anisa Rahma, Dede Yusuf, Meriam Bellina, Alexa Key, Jovial da Lopez, Andovi da Lopez, Ki Manteb Soedharsono and Daan Aria.