Directed by: Conor Allyn
Screenplay: Conor Allyn & Rob Allyn
Starring: Kellan Lutz, Ario Bayu, Frans Tumbuan, Atiqah Hasiholan & Mickey Rourke
BBFC Classification: 15
Nicely shot on location in Indonesia and featuring some rousing action, Java Heat may be pulp B-movie action fare but thanks to decent production values, an assured hand behind the camera and several impressive performances from the cast it’s an entertaining ride. Grad student Jake Wilde (Lutz) arrives in Java on a research trip and somehow manages to attend a swanky party where the Sultan’s daughter is attending. He is not at the party long before he finds himself in the middle of daring kidnapping of said Sultan’s daughter. Considered a suspect, Jake is pulled in for questioning but with no evidence to connect him to the kidnapping, is let go. However, straight as an arrow cop Hashim (Bayu) is suspicious of why Jake is in town and surprising no-one, Jake soon turns out not to be who he says he is. A former marine, Jake is after local crime boss Malik (Rourke) who may just be behind the kidnapping and after some predictable antagonism with Hashim, Jake joins forces with him to go after the evil Malik.
Filmed on what was presumably a low budget the film is well shot utilising the Indonesian locations to create a sweaty and intoxicating world for our Westerner hero to get lost in. From exotic nightclubs, to a chase through the never-ending alleys, to a showdown in what looks like a spectacular temple area, Java Heat certainly benefits from its unique location. The culture clash angle of the plot is refreshingly not overly clichéd (or overly offensive) as while Lutz’s American hero is at times a little too much of a meathead he is not as brash or as insulting as you might have expected from such a character. Once he and Hashim team up, the two share good chemistry and for once the sidekick is seen as an equal to the gung-ho hero. In fact, Hashim is so well written and played excellently by Bayu that you often feel like he should have been the main character. Bayo gives an impressive and likeable performance as the ‘do the right thing’ (but no less tough as nails) Java cop and his and Lutz’s banter and burgeoning friendship help to lift the material from routine action plotting. Rourke is his usual eccentric self of late: playing the bad guy somewhat over-the-top with a unique choice in sunglasses meaning he is never as menacing as he should be. Still, he gets surprisingly more screen-time than you may expect and even gets in on the action at the end.
Speaking of action, Java Heat delivers its fair share of bone crunching and bullet riddled action scenes. From an extended chase through the back alleys of Java (which features several painful looking motorcycle stunts) to several hard hitting shootouts and a particularly memorable bit with a rocket launcher, Java Heat dishes out some thrilling action beats which have a distinctive old school feel about them: bloody, brutal and all staged for real with no CGI trickery. In fact, Java Heat is old school in its whole look, feel and execution making it a refreshingly unfussy and unpretentious affair. If it was the late 80s or early 90s this would probably have been a big budget film that would have ramped up the action and the culture clash angle even more.
Movie fans with high critical standards may not get a kick out of it but those looking for some slick action entertainment should certainly check out Java Heat.
Java Heat is out on DVD in the UK on 29th July, released by Metrodome.
Review by Andrew Skeates