Wira (2019) Review

Following the success of last year’s Paskal: The Movie, director Adrian Teh returns with another highly-anticipated local action film in the form of Wira, which also reunites lead actor Hairul Azreen. Whereas Paskal: The Movie focuses more on the military side, Wira sees the director shifted his attention to the gritty world of martial arts.

The plot is basically a simple one: Hairul Azreen plays Hassan, a retired lieutenant returning to his hometown after spending a few years in the army. He is looking to save his family — including single father Munas (Dato Hilal Azman) and his MMA fighter-sister Zain (Fify Azmi) — from the tyranny of a local kingpin Raja (Dain Said).

Now, in what could have been a straightforward action film where Adrian Teh alongside his Paskal: The Movie co-writer Anwari Ashraf might possibly accomplish in a more stripped-down manner. Besides, since Hairul Azreen is again chosen to lead the movie, it would have been unwise to ask more from him, especially given his limited acting ability previously seen in Paskal: The Movie. But Wira sees Teh and Ashraf aren’t content in settling only the bare essentials when comes to dealing with Hairul’s character and the storyline altogether.

Instead, they want to showcase Wira more than just a straight-up action movie. And that’s where the problem lies: They try hard to incorporate their action movie with a family drama as well. A drama about Hassan’s estranged relationship with his dad and sister. Don’t get me wrong, some action movies would benefit from a meaty storyline in between to help flesh out the characters. But Wira isn’t that kind of movie capable of pulling off such a feat. Not with Hairul Azreen in the lead role where he requires to emote a lot more than just showcasing his physical agility. Try as he might, he simply doesn’t have the necessary dramatic chops for it. Like Paskal: The Movie, he carries the same wooden acting whenever there’s a drama involved.

This, in turn, also explained why the family drama doesn’t work as effectively as Teh and Ashraf’s screenplay hopes to be. As a result, the movie drags longer than it should at its 109-minute runtime and Teh could do us a favour by trimming down the unnecessary fats. Maybe down to a more leaner and tighter 90-minute length in total. Then, there are the obligatory comedy moments that either feels forceful or strangely out of place — the latter which involved the unnecessary cameo appearances of Zizan Razak and Jack Lim playing comic relief as among Raja’s employees could have excised completely.

Fortunately, that doesn’t mean Wira is a complete failure. It still has its moments, beginning with Hairul Azreen’s physically-demanding performance when comes to numerous fight scenes over the course of the movie. His best scene is none other than the climactic one-on-one showdown against Raja’s right-hand man played by Yayan Ruhian, who also served as the movie’s action choreographer. That scene alone is thrillingly staged with enough verve, thanks to Teh’s energetic camerawork and Lee Pai Seang’s spot-on editing, in which they successfully captured both of the intensity and Yayan Ruhian’s elaborate choreography.

As for the rest of the actors, relative newcomer Fify Azmi nearly steals the show as Hassan’s tomboy-ish sister Zain while Dato Hilal Azman delivers solid support in what could have been a thankless father role. Dain Said, in the meantime, certainly has a field day playing the movie’s main antagonist Raja. The only exception that made me sceptical about his role is his tendency of switching between Malay and English languages back and forth.

Although Wira isn’t as great as it led us — at least from my perspective — to believe so, particularly with all the promising trailers that have been heavily promoted since April this year, it remains a decent local action film. Given the fact that Teh is looking to build his own cinematic universe as evidently seen in Wira‘s mid-credits scene, here’s hoping that the director can improve further in the future.