Martial arts film meets coming-of-age film in the first action-drama from Brunei, driven with an excellent story thanks to its amazing cast.
Teenager Yasmine just wants to be accepted. However, things have not been easy for her, especially at home. Her father, Fahri, thinks she has it too easy and decides to transfer her to a new school so she stays out of trouble. There, she meets two classmates, Ali and Nadia, who soon become her friends. Yasmine’s passion is the martial art of Silat. Having learned a bit at her old school, she decided to start up a Silat club at her new school with Ali and Nadia. However, she learns there are a few obstacles standing in her way.
The first involving finding a teacher who is trained in the art. After countless searching, including one that nearly reunites her with archrival Dewi, the trio finds an instructor in Jamal, a former master who is now wheelchair-bound. The trio enters a tournament when Yasmine learns her former boyfriend Adi, who she hopes to reunite with, is now dating Dewi. To make matters worse, Fahri learns that Yasmine has been learning Silat and forbids it. Will Yasmine be able to overcome everything that stands in her way to become the next regional Silat champion?
Brunei’s first martial arts film is one of those rare exceptions that makes the genre one to watch because it is more about the fighting. With the genre, it usually is mostly action and virtually no plot, or the plot is merely nothing more than a device to deliver the fight scenes, making it more of a showreel. The Karate Kid (1984), Best of the Best (1989), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000), Fighter (2006), and The Sensei (2008) are perfect examples of films that complement martial arts with drama and this Siti Kamaluddin film is the latest to perfectly complement a coming-of-age drama with the martial arts film.
Liyana Yus, a local model, singer, and Wushu performer, makes her film debut in the titular role and she does an exceptional job at playing an angsty Muslim teen. As Yasmine, Yus plays the character who tries to find a perfect balance in her life but can’t seem to shake things off. Not only can she handle her fight scenes very well, but in addition, she does quite well at playing a young woman who goes from troublemaker to arrogant fighter to eventually finding her ground. However, it is the journey that really brings out her performance and forget the fact fans will say she is the next Jeeja Yanin or Cynthia Rothrock. She has only done one other film since then, a local comedy-drama with the same director.
The supporting cast does quite well, notably Reza Rahadian as Fahri, Yamine’s overprotective and very strict father who has a reason for his actions towards his daughter, one that is revealed at the end of the film’s second act. Nadiah Wahid brings a bit of comic relief as Nadia, Yasmine’s new friend who proves that anyone can do martial arts if they believe in themselves. There’s kind of a subliminal “love rectangle” between Yasmine, Roy Sungkono’s Ali, Aryl Falak’s Adi, and Mentrai De Marelle’s Dewi. De Marelle does an exceptional job as the arrogant Dewi, who is the current Silat champion and an all-around witch with a “b”.
Former Jackie Chan Stunt Team member Chan Man-Ching handled the film’s action sequences. He makes good use of the cast’s skills, notably Yus and De Marelle. Yus is a natural when it comes to her martial arts skills thanks in part to her experience with Wushu. While one may hope to see her do martial arts films, it would be great to see her do another film in the caliber of her film debut her. The tournament fights are well done, bringing the original Karate Kid in mind. However, Yus does get in on an extra action scene against some bullies on a pier which looks quite good.
Yasmine is a very exceptional martial arts/coming of-age meshing that has a good story about balance, redemption, and finding one within with an exceptional lead debut for Liyana Yus and a wonderful supporting cast.
WFG RATING: B+
1Oh!8 Films presents an Origin Films production. Director: Siti Kamaluddin. Producer: Khairuddin Kamaluddin. Writer: Salman Aristo; story by Aristo and Siti Kamaluddin. Cinematography: James Teh. Editing: Cesa David Luckmansyah.
Cast: Liyana Yus, Reza Rahadian, Nadiah Wahid, Roy Sungkono, Agus Kuncoro, Aryl Falak, Mentari De Marelle, M. Nasir, Dian P. Ramlee, Arifin Putra.