Movie review: Malaysian 'Walid' holds own with 'John Wick'

Walid (Megat Sharizal) is ready to teach some lessons after school. Photo courtesy of Outsider Pictures
1 of 5 | Walid (Megat Sharizal) is ready to teach some lessons after school. Photo courtesy of Outsider Pictures

LOS ANGELES, July 27 (UPI) -- Martial arts movies may follow a similar formula but they can be as unique as the martial art on display. Walid, in New York theaters Friday, employs Malaysian Silat in an action film that also highlights social issues facing Malaysia.

Walid (Megat Sharizal) teaches spelling and reading to undocumented immigrants who cannot attend public school. Walid takes a personal interest in Aisha (Putri Qaseh Izwandy).


When Aisha is kidnapped by Pa Ku's (Namron) gang of human traffickers, Walid handles the investigation the Malaysian authorities will not and shows he's not a peaceful teacher when he has to fight.

Walid meets up with two agents (Sham Putra and Yusran Hashim) and they battle Pa Ku's men to rescue Aisha and all their kidnapped children. One of Pa Ku's gang members (Jebat Zulfar) also joins the heroes after he turns on Pa Ku.


The peaceful warrior is a Hollywood tradition. They try to do right by non-violence until they're forced to fight.

John Wick would have left everybody alone if they hadn't killed his dog and stolen his car. Steven Seagal's whole schtick was eastern philosophy but somehow he always ended up having to use Aikido pummel bad guys.

Seagal also incorporated social messages in martial arts films with his environmentalist and pro-Native American films, which his current Russian ties seem to contradict. Billy Jack, too, preached peace and tolerance unless bad guys wouldn't listen to reason.

So the first half of Walid shows Walid trying to educate needy people whom his government won't serve, hoping that raising a kind and intelligent generation will improve Malaysia.

There are some scuffles early in the film to establish that Silat is prolific on the streets of Malaysia. Ultimately, the reality of human trafficking forces Walid and others into action.

Walid boasts good choreography captured with clear footage and strong editing. Sometimes it can be a little more frenetic than necessary. The fighting is impressive enough to present in a straightforward manner, but it never gets Jason Bourne level indecipherable.


Both the heroes and the enemies are impressive fighters. The winners graphically twist the losers' bones which is hopefully a visual effect but looks very convincing.

The climax of the movie takes place at the human traffickers' warehouse but keeps moving through new areas to change the dynamics, including up in the rafters and catwalks.

The long fight understandably gets less graceful the longer it processes. Both heroes and villains get exhausted and start just brawling.

Walid is a great vehicle for the cast of fighters and actors. They should get plucked out by Hollywood like The Raid stars Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim and Yayan Ruhian.

It is also a strong vehicle for director Areel Abu Bakar. Perhaps he can get a Hollywood vehicle too, but until then look for more intense action he produces out of Malaysia.

Walid expands to Los Angeles Aug. 11.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.


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