Seven strangers descend upon the isolated farmhouse of an Indonesian widow, Marlina (Marsha Timothy), with the intent to steal her livestock, take her possessions and rape her. What these robbers do not realize, and as the rotting corpse in her living room indicates, is that Marlina is not your average widow. Relying on her survival instincts, she emerges from her home the next morning with the head of one of the assailants in one hand and a saber in the other. This sets in motion a thrilling and darkly funny journey in which Marlina attempts to do the righteous thing, while being pursued by the remaining bandits.
A skillfully crafted and visually captivating film, one that will surely bring a smile to those who enjoy Quentin Tarantino’s brand of genre blending, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is truly a sight to behold. Confidently directed by Mouly Surya, this “feminist spaghetti western” infuses plenty of new life into old revenge flick tropes. Anchored by strong, and at times, hilarious female characters, including 10-month pregnant Novi (Dea Panendra), Surya offers pointed commentary on gender biases that still exist within the region.
As entertaining as Surya’s spaghetti western is, the fourth act does not reach the heights of the three which preceded it. In using the final act to shift power, or at least display it from another perspective, it inadvertently makes Marlina the victim she is combating against being. Thankfully, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts‘ minor stumbles in the last act are not enough to derail this invigorating and devilishly fun film.
This review was originally published as part of our TIFF coverage. Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts opens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Friday.