Film Review: Java Heat

The perfect macho date movie for that Type A juicehead in your life, marked by Mickey Rourke’s ever-accelerating descent into Lon Chaney-esque grotesqueness.

An inevitable thought occurred to me while watching the Indonesian-set thriller Java Heat: Exactly when did Mickey Rourke turn into Marie Dressler? As Malik, the luridly evil villain of the piece, his now dowager-like face is completely unrecognizable from his younger self, as he swans about in an impeccably white suit in lodgings that look like the fanciest Chinese restaurant of 1947, while speaking in a risibly Eurotrash accent and feeding chocolates to a pair of dancing girls who continually writhe—sans music—for him in the background.

Camp? You bet, and it’s as if director/co-writer Conor Allyn had seen every exotic potboiler ever made and decided to outdo them all in the name of shameless entertainment. It’s shameless, all right, but how entertaining depends on your tolerance for a clichéd storyline which posits Jake Travers (muscle-bound Kellan Lutz), an undercover FBI agent posing as an art-history student (!), trying to get to the bottom of a terrorist attack which supposedly killed the daughter of the sultan of the island.

In time-honored Ugly American fashion, Jake mutters at a party, “They told me formal attire, but it’s just Hawaiian shirts!” “It’s batik,” he is swiftly corrected by detective Hashim (Ario Bayu), but obviously Jake got the memo wrong anyway, for his idea of “formal” is a suit and tie. This abrasive, constantly corrective interaction forms the basis of the men’s relationship as they set out in search of Malik who, of course, is responsible for all the mayhem.

The film overflows with skillfully shot chase and explosive action sequences, with regular stops for gruff risibility. Acting-wise, Lutz is no Channing Tatum (which is not saying that much to begin with), and rather adds to the unintentional hilarity with his reading of lines like “We’re cops, man. We gotta stick together!” and especially, “He killed the Vizier!” Die-hard Twi-hards will be happy to know that the Lutz lats are on piquant display in a gratuitous workout scene, as well as an undraped massage with an Indonesian lovely making with the feet on his backside. Women, incidentally, are distinctly shunted to the side here, serving in various prop-like ways, dead or alive, with one even receiving a vicious branding at one point.

Bayu actually manages to be both convincing and emotionally effective, although he is required to once again correct Jake when he discovers a long-lost, essential precious necklace and exclaims, “All that glitters is gold!” “Glisters,” Hashim prompts, “Shakespeare: Merchant of Venice.” And then it’s swiftly on to the next bullet-riddled chase scene.