(Original Publication Date: February 25th, 2019) By: John M Jerva
REVIEW: MESSAGE MAN
STARRING: Paul O’Brien, Verdi Solaiman, Aji Santosa, Agni Pratishtha and Mike Lewis
DIRECTED BY: Corey Pearson
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: MESSAGE MAN follows an ex-hitman (O’Brien) whose violent brutality resurfaces when his past catches up to him, leading the assassin on one final killing spree to make things right.
THE REVIEW: From director Corey Pearson comes the ultra-violent and brutal tale of an ex-assassin who must bring his lethal skills back to the surface when he must protect a woman and her children from a ruthless slavery ring and an old nemesis who is out for revenge. The film is an Australian/Indonesian co-production and just like other Indonesian action films coming out as of late, this film pulls no punches and gives action genre fans a good dose of bloody retribution to watch on a Saturday night. The difference here is that the lead hero is Australian star Paul O’Brien who portrays Ryan Teller, a very dangerous man who is trying to live a very quiet life in Southeast Asia. He was once known as the Message Man because when he talked, people listened and then usually dropped dead. Unfortunately for him, the ugly past comes knocking once again and now he must set aside his tranquil existence and do what he does best and that’s kill a lot of people.
MESSAGE MAN is a slow burn at first which may not settle well with viewers, but I was fine with it as the payoff in the last third of the movie is more than satisfying and we get to know these characters a little before ethe bloodshed ensues. O’Brien’s Ryan Teller is living on a boat and keeping to himself until he meets a young local boy named Doni who lives with his sister and mom played Agni Pratishtha. He sees that the family is in dire need of food so, against his better judgement, he offers Doni a job helping him out. Throughout the course of the first act, Teller becomes drawn to Doni, his mom and sister and begins to hang out with them telling the audience that this mysterious man does have a heart.
Unfortunately for all involved, there is a ruthless criminal element on the island that kidnaps young girls to be sold off to the highest bidder who is led by a very dangerous man named Lee (Solaiman) from Teller’s past. Fate intervenes one day and when Doni is injured by some of Lee’s goons, Teller must now accept who he really is and take out the trash one more time. What follows is a pulse pounding display of bullets, fisticuffs and blistering knife battles.
In terms of plot, we have seen this many times before. The former assassin who is trying to bury his past and live a quiet existence only to have his world shatter where he must once again kill. It’s not original but what makes MESSAGE MAN work is O’Brien and the well-paced directing of Pearson. He is quiet and subdued at first which makes the first time you see him unleash his skills that much more devastating. I’m not going to sugar coat it, the movie is violent and if you have a hard time stomaching limbs being chopped off then this is not the film for you but if you like your action with a side of extreme violence then this is the film for you. O’Brien is solid in the role as Ryan Teller and when it comes time to execute his plan of attack, he is more than capable in the action department. The man can flat out use a knife and use it well. Pearson knows what audience will be drawn to this type of film and he gives them what they want in spades.
As the main villain, Verdi Solaiman as Lee serves his slimy purpose. He is vile and unlikable to the highest order, and he is the kind of antagonist that you can’t wait to see get his comeuppance at the film’s end. The rest of the cast including Aji Santosa as Doni and Agni Pratishtha as his mom Jenti are fine as well. They offer a nice yin-yang to O’Brien’s Teller. One character I certainly would have liked to see more was The Sniper played by Mike Lewis. During Teller’s assault on the criminal organization, he calls on former contacts to help him out and back up arrives in the form of this shadow man who is just as lethal as Teller is. You don’t know his name, but he is bad ass as he assists Teller in eliminating hostiles with a 50-caliber rifle. Lewis will be seen in the upcoming Indonesian action film FOXTROT SIX and let’s hope he gets to do a lot more because this was just the tip of the iceberg in my opinion.
Like I mentioned before, the film is a slow burn at first as we settle in to get to know the players better and while there isn’t a lot of back story to them besides knowing that Teller had killed Lee’s parents when he was younger, we get to sympathize with the good ones and hate the bad ones but once the action starts up in the middle, fans will be well rewarded with some very impressive set pieces as Teller rolls out into action. Some of the editing in the action sequences is suspect and there are some lighting issues here and there but for the most part, the carnage is well on display, and I was impressed with the fight choreography which was handled by Jonathan Ozoh and Michael Purnama. The kills come fast and furious and before you know it, bodies are littered everywhere. One other drawback for me and probably for some fans is that some of the action takes place off camera. You hear what is going on, but I would have loved to have seen more of it. This might have been due to budgetary constraints but the action that takes place on screen is well worth the price of admission.
All in all, MESSAGE MAN delivers its message of action and mayhem loud and clear. For fans of THE RAID films and others coming out of that area of the world, it is a welcome addition. If you can get through the slow first half, then you will be delighted at what comes next. Paul O’Brien is more than capable in the lead role of former assassin, and he excels in the numerous altercations that transpire throughout the film. It’s brutal and bloody and just what the doctor ordered for action fanatics with a pulse pounding soundtrack to accompany the mayhem. At 91 minutes in length, it doesn’t overstay its welcome and once the killings commence, it’s a wild ride. I for one would love to see Mr. teller again in another adventure. MESSAGE MAN delivers the bloody goods and makes sure that you hear it loud and clear.