In 2007, a Welshman named Gareth Evans walked into a martial arts school in Indonesia. He was looking to make a documentary about silat, the indigenous martial art of much of mainland Southeast Asia and the surrounding archipelagos. Evans’s attention was soon focused on one young fighter, Iko Uwais. Uwais was the grandson of H. Achmad Bunawar, a master of silat and founder of the school. Two years prior Uwais had become National Champion in the demonstration category.
Iko Uwais’s natural charisma and athletic ability convinced Evans that he could be a star, and he signed the Indonesian to a five year contract. Evans’ assessment was right on the money.
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When I was guided so that I am able to carry out moves from my ”Guru”. I learned a lot from him. And never just the movements, the man also taught me about “TAUHID”. And he said “How you can inspire many people in a good way”. Alm. H.Ahmad Bunawar Alfaatihah.. @uwais.team @audyitem @thunder11martialarts #tigaberantai #martialarts #teacher #silat #family #inspiration #sincer
Their first film together, Merantau, centered around the West Sumatran traditional rite of passage of the same name, meaning “journey.” Uwais plays Yuda, a young man who has decided his journey will take the form of traveling to Jakarta to teach children the West Sumatran form of silat, known as tiger silat. When he sees a young woman being kidnapped, Yuda’s journey is put on hold as he seeks to rescue her. Merantau garnered fantastic reviews and won the inaugural Action Fest in 2010. Uwais’ performance was so convincing that many Indonesians believed he was from West Sumatra—in fact he is a Jakarta native.
After making two more action powerhouse films with Evans, The Raid and The Raid: 2, Uwais starred in Headshot (2016), which once again featured Uwais’s superior stunt work. Once again, Uwais’ character finds himself rescuing a woman, this time the doctor who saved his life.
In 2018, Uwais took up double duty, as he not only starred in The Night Comes for Us, but also did the fight choreography. While some called the movie out for excessive violence, the graphic novel adaptation has been well liked by audiences. In a twist, the damsel in distress is a young girl and Uwais is not her primary rescuer.
The ever-busy Uwais then starred in the action extravaganza Triple Threat (2019). Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White, Tiger Chen, Scott Adkins, Celina Jade, Jeeja Yanin, and UFC great Michael Bisping co-starred in the film. While Triple Threat is a bit light on plot, it is heavy on superior fight choreography, and features many of the best in the business at the top of their game.
Merantau, Headshot, The Night Comes for Us, and Triple Threat are all currently streaming on Netflix, which also produces the action drama Wu Assassins. Set in Chinatown, Wu Assassins stars Uwais as a warrior who is chosen to be the last Wu Assassin and is tasked with a supernatural mission. The show is ongoing.