Pevita Pearce is "Sri Asih." Photo courtesy of Fantastic Fest
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- The Indonesian movie Sri Asih: The Warrior, which screened at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, is a fun combination of MMA fighting and superhero action. Based on the comic by R. A. Kosasih, director Upi crafts an origin story that whets the appetite for more.
Nayara (Canti Tachril) gives birth to Alana after only five months of pregnancy during a major storm. Alana (Messi Gusti) grows up in an orphanage where she is already defending her friends from bullies.
As an adult, Alana (Pevita Pearce) fights in MMA bouts, trained by her adoptive mother Sarita (Jenny Zhang). Alana must resist a flaming ghost that tempts her to release her anger.
Mateo (Randy Pangalila), son of crime boss Prayogo (Surya Saputra), seeks out a fight with Alana. Mateo doesn't know that Prayogo's men pay his opponents to lose.
Alana agrees to this to prevent Prayogo's men from harming any innocent fighters training in her gym. She even follows instructions to take the dive, but Mateo's poor sportsmanship unleashes her fiery anger, thus setting off a battle with Prayogo.
Fortunately, Eyang Mariani (Christine Hakim) finds Alana to explain the film's mythology. Alana is the latest human champion bestowed with the goddess Asih's powers, so she is Sri Asih.
The fire goddess has been attempting to sabotage Alana to corrupt her Asih powers. But, now in full control, Alana takes on the bad guys with both MMA moves and super powers.
She can deflecting bullets, fling a red scarf, multiply herself and more. She even does the superhero landing on her knee that Deadpool always makes fun of. Oh, and Mariani already had a costume ready for Alana.
The story is no more convoluted than Hollywood movies. The goddess Asih may as well be a radioactive spider or Super Soldier Serum that gave Marvel heroes their powers.
The action is fun and filmed clearly, which fans can't even take for granted in big budget Hollywood films. The special effects for Alana's super powers hold up and balance well with Pearce's fighting skills.
Mateo is a particularly juicy villain who deserves a comeuppance. He's released from prison on abuse charges and lashes out as soon as a reporter suggests his victim was threatened to recant. Besides being an entitled bully, he also mocks the poor.
Sri Asih definitely sets up Alana having more adventures after this one. There is even a mid-credits scene introducing a new character like Marvel movies.
Those are presented in the best Easter egg spirit. The first Sri Asih is a complete film that earns its right to promise more to come.
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.