MRR Review: "Java Heat"

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Starring Kellan Lutz and Mickey Rourke, a Muslim detective teams with an American posing as a graduate student to find the man behind a series of deadly terrorist bombings in Indonesia.
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MRR Review: "Java Heat"

Rating: R (violence throughout, language, sexual references)
Length: 104 minutes
Release Date: May 10, 2013
Directed by: Conor Allyn
Genre: Action/Crime/Drama

Kellan Lutz sheds his good vampire image from the "Twilight" movies in order to become a full-on action hero in "Java Heat," an action thriller set on the Indonesian island of Java. He plays Jake, a mysterious American with muscles for days who hops a plane to Indonesia in order to try and track down master terrorist and thief Malik (Mickey Rourke) for reasons that aren't explained until a little later into the film. Sufficed to say, Jake has good reason for wanting to find Malik. The fact that he could save a few Indonesian lives in the process by stopping Malik's next plan is just icing on the cake to Jake.

Malik has his eye on a cache of priceless jewels that belong to Sultana (Atiqah Hasiholan), the heiress to a huge fortune due to her father's wealth and notoriety. Malik plants a bomb in a busy area of town on a day when he knows Sultana will be in the area. Once the bomb explodes, the ensuing chaos makes it very easy for him to kidnap the heiress without anyone taking notice except for Jake. Unfortunately, just as he is closing in on Malik, Jake is captured by local cop Hashim (Ario Bayu), a no-nonsense upholder of the law who quickly jails him.

After much convincing, Hashim looks into Jake's story and finds that Sultana has indeed been reported missing. He reluctantly frees the American and teams up with him to find Malik and stop his criminal ways for good. Like any good thief, Malik has spies all over the place, and he finds out about Hashim's shaky partnership with Jake. Seeing an opportunity, Malik proceeds to kidnap Hashim's family and hold them hostage to ensure that he gets the jewels he wants and an easy escape. Now, Jake and Hashim must stop Malik, rescue Sultana, and save Hashim's family as well in a race against the clock that's full of action and peril.

Indonesia has not exactly been known as an international moviemaking hotspot, but that is all about to change. The country has a burgeoning film scene, particularly for action and adventure films, and "Java Heat" serves as a prime example of why more movies should be shot there. Even when the action intensifies in the film, the scenic island backdrop is still beautiful to watch. In fact, one could argue that Java is just as important a character as any of the main stars. It might be the perfect place to set a variety of films, from thrillers to romances, so don't be surprised if more movies are filmed there in the near future. Who wouldn't want to get paid to work on a film and get to visit a tropical paradise at the same time?

It is actually the actors with less star power who do a lot of the heavy lifting in "Java Heat." Rourke is plenty menacing, but he only pops up here and there, so he can't be tasked with carrying the film. Instead, Bayu and the bit players, most of whom are native Indonesians who are unknown to the rest of the world, carry the emotional weight of the film. Bayu in particular is very convincing as a cop trying to do good amidst a bevy of corruption and apathy. Once he finds out that his family has been kidnapped by Malik, his performance goes into overdrive, and he convincingly portrays a man who has nothing left to lose if he loses his family.

Director Conor Allyn had previously only helmed two films, only one of which was in English. The fact that he can make a film as good as "Java Heat" with so little experience is surprising. He does a good job of making everybody look good, and he manages to showcase the island without letting it distract from all the action sequences. He also wrote the screenplay, and he made sure the film has an emotional core, which isn't usually the case with action thrillers. The fact that he can balance emotion, plot, and action with such death-defying sequences of guns and mayhem bodes well for his future as a writer and director. It especially bodes well for the audience, who will find a nice little escape from reality by spending part of the day immersed in the tropical background of "Java Heat."

Rating: 3 out of 5