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RUNNING TIME 104 minutes
• Behind-the-scenes featurette
Black Rain with a massive downgrade in 80s-ness.
Kellan Lutz. Ario Bayo. Mickey Rourke.
Lieutenant Hashim is a good cop walking a bad beat. After a suicide bombing leaves the Sultana of Indonesia dead, he investigates Level 1 Scoundrel Jake Travers, who hit on the Sultana before her death. He claims to be just an ordinary man… in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since it’s Kellan Lutz claiming to be an art history teacher, things are not what they seem. Mickey Rourke ensues.
A solid, meat and potatoes, squibs and F-bombs action movie. It’s basically any culture clash buddy movie you’d care to name. Black Rain, Red Heat, Rush Hour, that one with Jay Leno and Pat Morita… brash meathead American and calm, collected Asian/assorted foreigner team up to take on the Mob, terrorists, or a corrupt politician (in this case, all three).
The plot, while a touch too complicated (there’s a general in there that feels scraped off the cutting room floor), does hit all the necessary ingredients of an eighties movie throwback: mismatched partners, politicians trying to take people off of cases, acts of terror covering for thievery, weirdo European villains, fighting to avenge a dead loved one, fighting to save an alive loved one, visiting strip clubs for information, kidnapped princesses, Mickey Rourke, evil grand viziers, and casual homoeroticism. Throw in some dolphins and you’d have the plot of every single Sega Genesis game thrown into a blender.
However, Java Heat does come at this story from a bit of an interesting angle. Arguably, Hashim is our protagonist and Jake is the strange foreign partner, as we get a lot of scenes showing Hashim’s motivation and inner life, while Jake is more opaque until late in the game. It’s almost like this is a big Indonesian movie that then got imported to America. There’s even an equivalent of the ‘foreigner weirdly meditates/polishes samurai sword/has tattoos’ scene, where Kellan Lutz does a bunch of gym-rat exercises and drinks a protein shake. Those Americans and their strange rituals, giving them incredible upper body strength so long as they don’t skip leg day. He even gets a brief ‘no nudity taboo’ scene like he’s a hot alien in a DC comic book.
Mickey Rourke shows up too as the villain of the piece, a Québécois (?) criminal mastermind who’s giving marching orders to the terrorists, since we can’t have a movie with terrorists in it where a white guy isn’t the real bad guy. This leads to an odd subplot where the Al Qaeda leader quails at Rourke killing women and children. Maybe he shares some DNA with the kindly SS officer in Fury. It’s a typical weirdo turn from Rourke, with one of those accents that gets subtitles even though he’s clearly speaking English, and the uncharming touch of him having a thing for Indonesian children, though like with MJ, it’s unclear if he just likes kids or if he like-likes kids.
If I come off as somewhat un-enthused about this film, it’s probably because my viewing comes on the heels of John Wick, which walks the same beat but is a real 10/10. But this is, admittedly, a better throwback than any of The Expendables have been. How can you hate a movie where a rocket launcher shows up, they film the rocket on a wire, then it hits a building and they really blow shit up? I don’t think this movie was ever going to be a perfect 10–maybe it could’ve been an 8 if there’d been a bit more oomph. Some of the fight scenes get a little Nolanesque, and after some pleasing scope and budget in the meat of the movie (this movie shoots the hell out of Java, in both senses of the word), the climax is a cat and mouse game out of an old Tom Cruise movie. I thought we were going back to the 80s, not the 90s. But still–rocket launcher.
No snapper case. Sparse special features: just the trailer and a serviceable behind-the-scenes featurette that is mentionable mainly for having the cast and crew go through all the potential meanings of the title Java Heat like it was a line from Camus. It comes off like a non-ironic bit from Hot Fuzz. It’s less than half an hour and still manages to repeat some interview footage and B-roll. For a movie with Mickey Rourke as one of the leads, you’d think they’d at least catch him talking shit about David Letterman or something (he does speak in a French accent, which you think would be him staying in-character, but it seems to be an entirely different accent from the one he uses in the movie). Cover art looks fine, but -1 for not having Hashim on it even though he’s one of the leads.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars