Jailbreak has been called a Cambodian The Raid, because The Raid was most viewers’ introduction to Indonesian Silat. We know Gareth Huw Evans made Merantau with Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian before The Raid. Jailbreak is more like a Cambodian Merantau, but if you know your Indonesian martial arts movies, that’s still awesome.
Playboy (Savin Phillip) has been arrested and has incriminated the Butterfly Gang. When Jean-Paul (Jean-Paul Ly) leads his team of officers (Dara Our, Tharoth Sam) to escort Playboy from Prei Klaa Prison when Madam Butterfly (Celine Tran) comes to snuff out Playboy.
Clearly The Raid comparison is for martial arts in a single location (a few Butterfly gang scenes happen outside the prison). The bokator martial artists are great athletes but you can tell they’re still learning how to perform for the camera, how to tweak their speed and choreography for film.
Bokator features impressive strikes and slashes. They use the environment, a latter, a urinal, the cell bars. Multi-fights feature impressive choreography of massive crowds. Women take a beating too, but they’re badass and can come back. The camera gets more ambitious as the fights progress and the choreography gets faster and more dynamic.
Writer/director Jimmy Henderson has given his characters colorful backstories and characteristics, like the inmate so hungry he ate his own balls. Playboy uses money for napkins. A romance between officers is appropriately melodramatic. They are not just types to fill in a martial arts story. They are larger than life.
It’s nice to know there are still new martial arts to discover. Not that Kung Fu or Wushu ever went out of style, but Jailbreak is a fine vehicle for Bokator martial arts and Cambodian cinema. If it truly is following the Indonesian model, be excited because that means the next one will be their The Raid!
Ithaca Fantastik continues through Sunday, November 12.