Writer and director Corey Pearson brings a debut that carries on the latest tradition of delivering solid, sensible and worthwhile action and drama with Message Man. It’s a pretty long and hard-earned effort seeing as the film was shot in 2015 and I actually learned about this film just a year or two ago myself, and I believe there were some screenings as well which otherwise makes its North American release quite a rewarding one, and not for nothing.
The film immerses you straight away into the life of Ryan (Paul O’Brien), just a guy living an idyllic life in solitude on a boat somewhere in Indonesia. He’s tall, has a remarkably full head of hair and a beard to boot. He heads into town to do business with a mechanic before being bombarded by a young boy named Doni (Aji Santoso), looking for work just as his mother Jenti (Agni Pratistha) falls short of help from her neighbors to feed her children.
Uneasy at first and with Doni’s help, the two slowly warm up to each other enough that they enjoy two nights of dinner together with Doni’s sister, Dewi (Zahira Aleka Ashari). One day and Ryan and newfound employee, Doni, are ambushed by a speeding van, its drivers leaving Doni for dead. Enraged, Ryan confronts the men before him, all of whom are armed with machetes – save for one who stays in the van with two female captives.
A bloody confrontation ensues before Ryan whisks Doni away to Jenti and Dewi to safety. Ryan sets out to investigate, learning of the human trafficking network, its lieutenants, the assassins out to kill him, and the puppetmaster behind it all, Lee (Verdi Solaiman), a plutocratic land developer with a long-unsettled grudge. Ryan’s quiet life officially takes a backseat as he reactivates a chip in his body, now with a mission in mind to bring down a criminal empire that will stop at nothing to make sure he’s dead.
I was initially sure that next to some positive reactions I caught for Message Man, it would be nothing more than another middle-of-the-road actioner with some favorable thrills and a good story to keep me interested. Boy, was I wrong. The story is defintely good and the performances are generally solid, and Australia’s own O’Brien was a delightful surprise.
Ryan’s relationship with Doni serves the story feasibly by the first half hour with some of our villains already making clear who they are, as well as their intentions. It’s only a matter of time before the lingering threat they pose begins to affect Ryan directly and when things intensify, the film stops short of being to pedestrian for its own good – and by that I mean by spilling a LOT of the red stuff.
That level of action continues throughout between guns blazing, fisticuffs and good old-fashioned knife wear-and-tear. The sequences are mostly shot with ample comprehension to coincide with the film’s even balance of action and drama, with the stakes raises even higher by the third act.
Actor Mike Lewis (Foxtrot Six) makes a rousing appearance as Ryan’s incognito sniper working in accordance as they infiltrate the traffickers and Lee’s paid handlers. Lending support is Mario Irwinsyah, persuaded against his will to otherwise aid Ryan’s life or death mission, leading to just a little palpable humor with a delightful trade-off at some ends.
It took four years since for this film to finally make its way to wider availability. I didn’t keep up with it much as time passed, so when I got the presser for this film, I genuinely didn’t know what I was in for. Not knowing who O’Brien was certainly added to the “wow” factor a bit in seeing his portrayal of a reticent, retired government hitman with a new purpose for his own particular set of skills.
Message Man is a bonafide action thriller that makes its message loud and clear. It staves off most other tropes that would typically make it more pedestrian than preferred, and it does so by delivering a well-rounded, hearty, dramatic action thriller that kills with a vengeance.
Vertical Entertainment will be releasing the action-thriller film MESSAGE MAN in U.S. digital platforms on February 26.