Streaming isn’t without its share of controversy, although it really depends on the platform in terms of what kinds of titles are given wider releases outside their respective regions. With Netflix, it certainly helps that they’ve placed Indonesia under their radar and have met the demand accordingly with such releases like Ben & Jody, the new feature to hit the streamer from recurring director Angga Dwimas Sasongko.
The film is the third latest entry of the Filosofi Kopi franchise created by Dee Lestari, and dating back to 2015, with two movies and two miniseries in its wake. Actors Chicco Jerikho and Rio Dewanto, who also appeared in Randy Korompis’s Foxtrot Six, reprise their respective roles in the franchise from a script written by Sasongko and co-scribe M. Nurman Wardi, with a story that sets the drama against the backdrop of an activist movement, and topped with an equal serving of action and fisticuffs, courtesy of action stylist and co-star Yayan Ruhian.
Ben (Jerikho) and Jody (Dewanto), have long since gone their seperate ways with the former returning to his old village. Lately, Ben’s been helping assemble peaceful protests to aid the farmers in preventing illegal loggers from taking their land, with the latest incident resulting in violent backlash from the company. When he leaves to search for a vehicle to take the injured to a hospital, he is suddenly kidnapped.
Concerned, and with the ceremonial opening of his own new coffeehouse just weeks away, Jody sets out to look for Ben, and ultimately crosses paths with the farmers’ lead organizer, Mr. Hasan (Arswendy Bening Swara), with Ben’s lost phone in hand. Using images in the phone as clues, Jody manages to find Ben held captive with the farmers in a remote camp run by the ruthless Tubir (Ruhian), but not without risking his own life in the process.
The only chance the two now have is to carefully plan a daring escape to the city to look for help, only to be misdirected to a secluded village and taken in by its protectors, Rinjani (Hana P. Malasan), and her sister Tambora (Aghniny Haque), resident and warrior Jago (Reza Hilman), village youth Musang (Muzakki Ramdhan), and village mother Mak Lis (Ruth Marini).
The welcome isn’t easy at first, as Rinjani and Tambora are wary of bringing in outsiders, with Tambora being the most skeptical. With time however, the two learn the truth and begin a plot to rescue the farmers, wrestling with a strategy that could prove suicidal if they’re not careful. Reluctant at first, Ben and Jody now find themselves at the center of a humanitarian cause, joining forces with the villagers to rescue the farmers, and ultimately uncovering a traitor in their midst.
For a lot of us here outside of Indonesia and who are new to Sasongko’s Filosofi Kopi films and shows, Ben & Jody will be what introduces us to the characters. It doesn’t feel too necessary to have seen any of the previous incarnations going into the start of this film, but if you look at any clips or samplings of the Filosofi Kopi films or shows, you can sort of get a small sense of the idea of the franchise and some of its themes.
Concordantly, you can also piece together the kinds of hardship and life lessons our protagonists have shared leading up to now as baristas. It also helps that both Jerikho and Dewanto share a longstanding chemistry on screen together that fans clearly approve of, and with actresses Malasan and Haque bouncing gracefully off that energy as sisters with two different and often clashing personalities.
Regarding this newest chapter, it’s especially impossible to ignore the overseas appeal it garners, having cast someone like Ruhian whose career spans as far as Malaysia, Japan, and ultimately Hollywood. Amidst the cadre of baddies he’s played in most of his career as one of the most celebrated action stars today following Merantau and The Raid movies, Ruhian puts on another impressive show yet again as the big bad in Ben & Jody. He also gets the most out of his actors when it comes to choreography, including going toe-to-toe in a two-on-one with Malasan and Haque, and even trading a few blows with Hilman, who himself is a world class martial artist and Pencak Silat stylist.
At least one element that’s left in the wind is the question of who is at the controls with the illegal loggers and their armed goons after all is said and done. We never really learn who the company is, just some of the players, and everything else from there is pretty much subjective. The only few other nitpicks I think could irk fans a little when it comes to the action is some of the rhythm and pacing between a few of the beats, and maybe one moment of what looks like wirework, which doesn’t look so bad in my view.
As for Jerikho and Dewanto, as either two are no stranger to the action genre, both actors prove themselves able to keep up in this genre-crossing affair from Sasongko, and you alsobget a few moments of Ramdhan in character using his slingshot with pinpoint brilliance. The film bookends with a high-speed chase sequence out of the woods, which jolts the film’s final act right down to its climatic and riveting finish.
I don’t know what Netflix’s plans are in terms of future title acquistions apart from what they announce in the press. It’s particularly annoying that they usually keep so quiet about those things and leave it up to the fans to check out the coming soon column of the mobile app if the titles even show up there. Regardless, it’s nice to know they have their eye on the ball with some of these titles, and I’ve covered these films plentily in the last nine years in hopes of seeing what would pop up in the trades or in press announcements.
Ben & Jody introduces characters who are palatable and likeable, and clearly way in over their heads in this newest chapter, but nonetheless still manage to find purpose in a noteworthy cause. Ask me how this pertains to the narrative “Filosofi Kopi” concept and I couldn’t tell you if I tried. Whatever the message is though, it packs tasty punch in its blend.
Ben & Jody is now streaming on Netflix in the US.