Mouly Surya’s film transposes tropes of the American West to contemporary Indonesia
MARLINA THE MURDERER IN FOUR ACTS (Mouly Surya). 93 minutes. Opens Friday (June 29). See listing. Rating: NNNN
In a golden age of female-forward action movies, Marlina The Murderer In Four Acts distinguishes itself by reaching back to look forward.
Following her 2013 teen romance What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love, writer/director Mouly Surya transposes the tropes of the American West to contemporary Indonesia. A young widow (Marsha Timothy) refuses to surrender herself and her possessions to rural bandits. She kills the criminals instead, and encounters a series of unexpected complications when she tries to turn herself in.
Surya has a great feel for elemental imagery, giving a timeless quality to the story by keeping the flip phones and vehicles to a minimum, even finding a way to work horses into the action. And the script folds in a parallel story about Marlina’s pregnant friend Novi (Dea Panendra), whose missed delivery date has led her husband to speculate the child isn’t his. (This is not a movie that goes particularly easy on its menfolk.)
Marlina The Murderer keeps its focus tight and its storytelling sharp, and if it has a tendency to hammer home the genre resonance by holding moments a little too long and having characters look into the camera to make sure we don’t miss the contemporary resonance… well, no one complains when Tarantino does it.