Cultural clashes and gunfire spearhead this overly loud and unaccomplished action flick, gunked up with pervasive violence leading to nowhere. Square jawed Twilight vet Kellan Lutz cannot pull in a convincing lead as CIA/FBI/Student/Other Jake Wilde, stranded in Indonesia after terrorists brandish their suicidal might.
Java Heat loosely threads together a distrusting buddy picture with dire implications, Wilde paired with local detective Hashim (Ario Bayu). Religious squabbles and unfettered animosity between nations surround a nighttime bombing, Wilde a potential suspect with questionable reasons as to his purpose in this touristy sector of the country.
Splendorous location cinematography and a comfortable Bayu performance of note are minimal reasons to soak in Java Heat’s over active action facade. Bullets keep firing and faceless goons keep dying, all without adequate pressure. Shoot-outs become passe normalcy, forcing Java Heat into a thematic rut.
Wilde and Hashim are on a search for a missing princess, charting a path into uninteresting police procedural storytelling tactics. The two battle over their countries ideals as Wilde’s suspect intentions run in the undercurrent. Unknown to them, both have a beef with local delusional Frenchman Malik (Mickey Rourke), presenting a facade of flaunted wealth and clumsy accenting.
Java Heat needs – desperately – captivating measures, and works under assumption. It assumes action will lure in audiences whether narrative weight is there to support those scenes or not. It assumes seedy photography will help Wilde’s bilking of local officials carry importance or interest. It assumes exotic locales can supersede clumsily constructed relationships.
Java Heat assumes too much.
Lutz lacks presence and performance power to carry his role outside of muscular brawn. Upstaging is common from Indonesian local Bayu, whose character is locked into family drama for legitimate character purpose. Lutz exists to hold guns and grunt, and Rourke? He’s not French. Points are awarded for complex set ups and enormous crowds, adding scale otherwise missing from this pitifully repetitive tale.
Crafted from father/son team of Connor (writer/director/producer) and Rob (co-writer/producer) Allyn, Java Heat’s depiction of long standing American and Muslim hostility feels routine, even staged to exaggerate those feelings. Closure may bring peace in this cordoned off story, but it comes after such tremendous death and stray bodies as to be rendered moot. Accomplishment is bound to rescuing a princess, a dismally simplistic trope which crumbles Java Heat’s specialties.
MPI (or IFC’s) digital AVC encoding is befuddled by Java Heat’s source photography. Running ragged and under assault from noise, elements of this film-based offering are lightly evident at their peak. Help is rarely afforded by focus, which never has a lock on visuals in close, drifting in and out of a squandered focal center.
Grain skips from appealing to noxious, swarming in low light to better represent looks generated from low grade digital as opposed to film. Cloudy black levels, which like everything else wander from absolute crush to menial gray, indicate digital brightening. Couple that decision with low bitrate encoding and Java Heat battles just to be identifiable.
Elements of sharpening leave small halos strewn about, visible around text or location shots. Strands of digital intrusions can surround actors, although with less frequency. Some flickering in pan shots further offers evidence of manipulation. Java Heat completely ignores purity evident within its chosen 35mm stock.
The disc is not without its positives, including fidelity when it chooses to dodge intrusive digital techniques and source cinematography works in equal tandem. Those moments are few. Indonesia proves stunning and a rarely utilized locale for film, but it’s washed over with abrasively applied methods which render these sights blasé.
With enough shoot-outs to fill this DTS-HD 5.1 mix, Java Heat seems like a success without working overtime, and yet its small, indie budget creeps in to simmer those hopes. Restricted is dialog, obviously recorded under varying conditions without dubbing in post to clear up problem areas. Some lines, coupled with accents, are nearly impossible to understand without the aid of subtitles. There are also instances where overdubbing is applied, apparent during a sequence panning into a club. Guest voices are raised unnaturally.
While LFE punch is removed from most gunfights, it becomes key to Java Heat’s stand out action displays. A deliberate car wreck and rocket launcher assault mix it up with the subwoofer for added explosiveness. During the finale, shotgun blasts finally ring the low-end for help.
Otherwise, action exists in the highs, with peaked AK-47s and handguns piercingly loud, and not unnaturally so. Surround use proves infrequent – certainly devoid of ambiance – if active when needed most. An especially sharp utilization comes via an underground aqueduct, where echoes swell into rear channels to set space.
A half hour making-of features Rourke sticking with his French accent while behind-the-scenes footage rolls. Excitement is shared over the choice of location, but ultimately, the piece is generalized.