The first Timo Tjahjanto that I came across was the 2018 action extravaganza starring Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Julie Estelle, Hannah Al Rashid, and Dian Sastrowardoyo, “The Night Comes For Us.” After that, I started digging into his filmography and realized that he has carved out quite a space in the action and horror genres with films like “Macabre,” “Killers,” “Headshot,” “May the Devil Take You,” and “May the Devil Take You Too.” He made massive ripples on the internet when it was announced that he has been given the reins to the “Train to Busan” remake. And while all of us were looking into the distance, wondering how that movie was going to turn out, Timo went ahead and made “The Big 4.” It follows the titular group of Robin Hood-esque assassins (Topan, Alpha, Jenggo, and Pelor) who work for an aging “criminal” called Petrus. Petrus’s daughter, Dina, is starting her job as a police officer, so he wants to retire and leave the life of violence behind. But a mysterious killer takes him out and causes Dina and The Big 4’s lives to spiral out of control.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Despite its 2-hour, 21-minute runtime, “The Big 4” has a deceptively simple story. After Petrus’s death, Topan finds his dead body and stays with him throughout his dying moments. Dina, who was attending her induction ceremony, finds out about it later and mistakes Topan for the killer. So, she shoots at him and permanently scars him. He runs back to his base and tells the gang that they’ve to leave the city for good because if their boss is dead, it’s only a matter of time before the killer comes after them. Dina, with no concrete clues in her hands, spends the next three years searching for Topan but gets nowhere. So, her superior tells her to take a vacation, and she zeroes in on the Paranais Bersi Villa because that’s one of the names in the travel brochures and in her father’s old picture, where Petrus is wearing the cap that Topan stole while running away. When she jets off to Bersi, we are introduced to the villain of the film, Antonio Sandoval, and his assistant, Alo.
So, the fact that this introduction happens right after Dina goes to Bersi, and that too via a phone call indicates two things. Firstly, Antonio is tailing Dina to get to Topan and complete the task of killing the Big 4. And secondly, Antonio isn’t the one calling the shots. The person on the phone clearly is. The two people who know about Dina’s vacation are AKP Rudha Agustian and Commander Hassan. Therefore, it has to be one of them. Now, I am writing this article after watching the entire film. Hence, I know who’s the “real villain.” But, yes, this is one of the biggest clues that Antonio isn’t acting out of his own volition. His ill feelings are either being used by someone to finish off The Big 4, or he’s the one who has scored a deal with the “real villain” so that he can exact his revenge against The Big 4 because Petrus preferred them over him. That said, Antonio goes to some extreme lengths to make it seem that he’s in charge here by torching Jenggo’s meditation hut and by showing the heroes that he’s better than all of them. In doing so he proves why Petrus abandoned him.
While recuperating from Antonio’s attack, Dina sees the scar from her gunshot on Topan’s shoulder, assumes that he’s the killer, and bails on the group. Pelor goes after her and takes her to Alpha because he assumes she’s the only one Dina is going to listen to. Topan and Jenngo go to Bunglon (a mercenary) to reaffirm the fact that Antonio was Petrus’s first student and used to go by the name Suranto. Topan remembers that that’s the name Petrus uttered before dying. And then they rush to Alpha’s spot to rescue her, as well as Dina and Pelor, from Vinsen and his team (a group of mercenaries hired by Antonio). Topan manages to get Jenngo, Dina, and Alpha away from Antonio and his gang. However, Pelor is held hostage. In a bid to save Pelor again (thereby echoing the film’s opening operation at the orphanage), Topan agrees to meet Antonio at Petrus’s villa again and bring this saga to an end once and for all.
After nearly 1 hour and 38 minutes of non-stop action and comedy, this is where the movie slows down to give Topan, Alpha, Dina, and Jenngo a moment to breathe. Dina has been in a constant state of stress for the last 3 years and maybe before that as well due to her estranged relationship with her father. Topan, Alpha, and Jenngo have stayed away from each other to avoid processing the death of their father figure and the unresolved emotions that came with it. So, when it comes to taking the blame for bringing Antonio into their lives and ruining whatever sense of peace they had, Dina says that she is responsible. Not just because she feels guilty for pursuing this case but because she can’t see the people her father loved so much fighting with each other. Topan and Dina are also allowed to share this romantically infused moment of calm, where they bury their rivalry and accept the connection they’ve shared since they were kids. All this is essential to the emotional progression of the characters. It also ups the stakes of the finale because one has to be absolutely heartless to not care for these people while they are getting shot, punched, kicked, and hit with bazookas, right after being so vulnerable and tender with each other.
The concluding moments of “The Big 4” are pretty simple in terms of story. Alpha uses her latest explosive invention, Lucifer’s Fart 3000, to incinerate the soldiers stationed outside Petrus’s villa. Jenngo provides cover from a distance. Dina, Alpha, and Topan then enter the villa and start taking out the goons inside one by one. Then they are separated by Vinsen, Alo, and Antonio, respectively. Dina barely manages to survive Vinsen’s onslaught. Alpha, with some help from Jenngo, detonates Alo’s favorite bazooka launcher while she’s holding it, thereby killing her. Topan beats Antonio, saves Pelor, kisses Dina goodbye (while handcuffing her to the window because she would’ve arrested him), and walks off into the distance with his team. All that said, what Timo Tjahjanto and his team manage to pull off in terms of action choreography and cinematography is truly insane. From WWE moves to Gun Fu (Kung Fu, but with guns), raw hand-to-hand combat, bone-crunching stunt work, seamless visual effects, and some truly chunky practical effects are loaded into those 17 minutes. It’s like an action director and an action fan’s dreams coming true. Everyone, please thank Timo for this treat.
Coming back to the plot, Antonio/Suranto is evidently dead. We clearly see the dead body. So, despite Martino Lio’s enjoyable performance, I think this is the last we’ll see of him. As for the Big 4 and Dina, I think they’ll share somewhat of a love-hate relationship because they are on opposite sides of the law. It’s something that Petrus talked about before dying. He chose Dina over everything. Can Topan do the same for Dina? Well, only time (and future installments) can tell. As for Hassan, it’s revealed that he’s the one who was giving orders to Antonio. However, there’s someone else controlling him, too, i.e., the woman with the black eyepatch, which has a golden spider on it. The woman asks about Dina, and Hassan requests that the woman spare her life. The woman responds to that by asking a rhetorical question about how Hassan can do nothing if she decides to go after Dina. She assures him, though, that she isn’t going to meddle with Hassan’s pity party for betraying Petrus. By driving her katana through Topan’s photo, she claims that her prime focus is on him. The film keeps this woman’s identity pretty ambiguous. My best guess is she is Syarief’s (the man shown to be conducting an illegal organ trafficking business during the opening minutes of the film) associate or business partner. Since Topan’s rescue operation has caused a dent in her finances, it’s possible that she wants to get even with him now. At the cost of sounding repetitive, we’ve to wait till the sequel arrives to know more about it. Until then, watch and rewatch “The Big 4” to appreciate every action-comedy-filled frame of the movie.
“The Big 4” is a 2022 Drama Action film directed by Timo Tjahjanto.
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