By Hope Madden
The low-rent exotic thriller Java Heat is best if viewed as a comedy. It does, indeed, get off two intentionally funny lines, flanked on all sides by hundreds of unintentionally yet no less hilarious bits.
Kellan Lutz (the weirdly muscular vampire from Twilight) is Jake, an American beefcake suspiciously on hand when a suicide bomber kills the Sultana of Indonesia. Hashim (Ario Bayu) – the last good cop in Java – reluctantly teams up with the pec-tasatic American because this crime scene doesn’t pass the smell test.
Can the reserved and spiritual Hashim teach the hotheaded American to listen first, act later? Might it have been possible for the moderately skillful Bayu to teach the utterly talentless Lutz to act, period?
Nope and nope.
Lutz ably undresses, shouts Semper Fi, smirks, undresses again, frowns. The real problems arise when he tries to deliver lines.
Lutz is bad in a way that exposes a profound lack of talent. As the flamboyant villain Malik, Mickey Rourke is bad in the manner of a genuine talent whoring himself out after a career of bad decisions. Think Brando in The Island of Dr. Moreau, only with a sketchy interest in little boys and a wildly ludicrous French accent. I believe it was supposed to be French. He has that Pepe Le Pew thing going on.
Given his unnatural appearance, Rourke has been relegated to the role of a freak in basically every gig since the mid Nineties. I doubt he even delivers scripted lines anymore – just puts on a leopard print poet’s blouse and some Zubaz, affects a project-inappropriate accent, and fondles an exotic pet. The films just kind of happen around him.
What happens here is a poorly written exercise in culture clashing and learning to appreciate our differences. Because it’s not religion that’s tearing us apart, it’s greed. Except when it is actually also religion.
Writer/director Conor Allyn’s high concept about human dignity and cultural respect is admirable. I’m sure it must have seemed downright adorable to Rahayu Saraswati, who plays the hooker that’s riddled with bullets while handcuffed in her underpants.
Jave Heat is not the kind of film you expect to find on a big screen. It’s the kind of film fans of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Michael Pare might expect to see in their Netflix recommendations. Between the big release and loads of laughs, it’s already an unexpected success.