Valentine: The Dark Avenger
Valentine: The Dark Avenger 2019
I’m down to the last couple indie superhero movies of the year although I’m not sure if I’m going to get around to the last one on my list. This was an Indonesian film that came out a couple years ago in Indonesia, but was released in the US with an English dub from Shout Factory earlier this year. It was based on a comic book superhero from Skylar comics and it has an interesting overall concept that seemed to share a few ideas with Kick-Ass, at least as far as the social media aspect, but brought a lot more martial arts and a lot less blood. It’s not quite as action-y as a martial arts movie and it’s not quite as superhero-y as a superhero movie but it has its moments here and there and was put together pretty well for a lesser known superhero movie.
The overall concept is a rather interesting one. There’s an American film producer who’s trying to get his concept for a superhero movie off the ground but is having trouble finding investors. So he decides to take matters into his own hands and drum up interest in his original superhero named Valentine by casting someone off the street who is attractive enough and knows martial arts to play the lead so they can shoot some low budget concept footage to drum up interest. He happens upon a waitress named Srimaya who randomly beats up some guys putting the moves on a co-worker of hers. But in order to shoot the their footage, they have her actually go out and fight crime for real, shoot that footage, and she starts to become a local sensation. This element of the movie is a unique take on the superhero concept but they could have taken it a lot farther. For the first couple fights, they discuss how underprepared they were and how bad the footage looks, but after a while, the camera footage becomes more of a footnote and Valentine just goes about fighting crime in various action scenes with no mention of the film whatsoever.
The woman who plays Valentine does well enough, and the martial arts scenes themselves are well done and entertaining. They’re not quite on par with some of the better martial arts movies out there, but they are head and shoulders above most fight scenes in indie superhero movies covered here on this site. The one big disappointment is for the big action setpiece that’s right around the climax of the film involving a car chase. The concept is interesting where the fight is bouncing between two vans with open doors speeding down the road, but the budget makes it feel way too unconvincing and dissipates much of the tension. The final showdown between Valentine and the masked villain Shadow has a rather anticlimactic-yet-surprising ending and is one of the very few scenes of bloody violence throughout the entire film. In fact, it’s interesting to note that while the police are always armed with guns, the criminals rarely are, and there are only three times that guns are fired at people. Of course, all three of those times are for dramatic impact rather than being part of an action scene. The rest of the film is all hand to hand combat.
The actual story behind the characters generally felt a little too overdramatic and any time the film started focusing on the character moments, it felt like it was just killing time until the next action sequence. For whatever reason the American producer Bono not only had an artificial leg that only came up twice, but he also had a tragic backstory where he had a wife and a younger daughter named Valentine who died in a car accident. It’s not something that really added much to his character and the movie never really did anything with it. Srimaya’s home life does play a bit more into the overall narrative of the movie’s story but the ending kind of comes out of nowhere. And alongside everything else, it has kind of a tragic end to everything. Spoiler warning, Bono ends up dying randomly right after Srimaya tries to quit when he gets shot trying to protect someone getting robbed. And the film ends with the reveal that not only is Shadow Srimaya’s brother, but the police commissioner killed their father and made it look like a suicide. A suicide that isn’t even really brought up until over halfway through the movie.
There are a lot of good elements in this movie alongside several bad ones. The plot and characters are pretty weak, and everything jumps around with little to no set up. But the actual character designs and fights are well done and entertaining. Shadow himself doesn’t look all that great with just a full face-covering black molded mask and voice changer, but he has a cadre of fun Joker-like henchwomen wearing colorful costumes with no hint at a theme whatsoever. At one point one of his girls is wearing what looks like a sexy Olaf costume with a frilly tutu, yes the snowman from Frozen. Another one is always wearing full eye contacts and face paint, and all three of them wear three or four completely different outfits over the course of the film. They’re always very colorful and eclectic, and they never match with each other. It’s also nice that other than the random gang members that Valentine fights early on, the three main henchwomen are women, and they’re competent in their own right despite the fact that they don’t actually get many lines of dialogue. If any at all. But the movie itself is a fun watch, especially for the fight scenes. The movie concept helps keep it fun and is a source of occasional humor, especially with the comic relief fashion designer slash cameraman. The serious moments could be better, and there is a mid-credits stinger that comes out of nowhere with a costumed character literally flying to stop a meteor. For a film that’s completely grounded in reality, it was completely unexpected to have a superpowered hero show up with no explanation that’s just to connect to the next movie based on the comics. But the rest of this movie was still pretty fun. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.