Preman Cover photo

Preman is a 2021 Indonesian action crime drama, written and directed by Randolph Zaini in his first feature length directorial debut. After witnessing the murder of an old man at the hands of vicious gangsters, young Panu along with his deaf father Sandi, a current member of the gang, must fight for their survival as they try to escape the vengeance of its boss, Guru!

Preman 2021 poster

Though mostly an action-based film, Preman features a heavy emphasis on the exploration of the father/son connection between Sandi and Panu. Their relationship is strained even further as Sandi accepts a near-death sentence going against the gang , finally able to overcome his loyalty (or fear) of the group and risk everything for his son. Moreover, an in-depth look into Sandi’s troubled past assists in conveying the events that lead him into his current employment organically rather than utilizing a lazy exposition dump.

The premise here is not exactly a unique one,  but Preman introduces elements that are lesser seen in the genre to its benefit. Powerful use of symbolism throughout, flashbacks of Sandi’s violent past manifested as skewed visions, dreams featuring anthropomorphic fox suits, are all presented with a vibrant mix of colours, neon lights, and liberal use of slow motion. Consequently, the amalgamation of these dreamlike states bleeding into reality in the film’s final scenes adds to the impressive visual style presented throughout Preman.

This permeating style is present throughout the film in addition to these dream sequences, the use of atypical styles of cinematography along with the alternation in aspect ratios creates some highly polished production values throughout. Additionally, the mixed-use of traditional and modern Indonesian music presents a strong national identity along with fitting the film’s tone perfectly.

Preman 2021

Intermittent placed throughout are some impressively intense fight scenes, all of which retain the film’s unique style. The implementation of cinematography, sound design, and sleek editing in an exciting yet realistic manner avoids some more common tropes of the genre. Sandi, though a skilled fighter, is not infallible either, being on the receiving end of the violence on more than one occasion but with his trusty ‘Monkey’s Fist‘, Sandi fights all those in his path with sheer determination in an effort to save his son.

Perhaps not as adrenaline-fuelled as The Raid (2011) or The Night Comes for Us (2018), Preman undeniably delivers an action-packed thrill ride in Indonesia’s dark underbelly. Along with its emphasis on building a robust connection between the protagonists as well as its ever-present symbolism, it teeters the line between action and drama admirably – retaining the best aspects of both without compromise.

We watched Preman as part of the 2022 Fantaspoa Film Festival

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