“Java Heat” is a good-looking thriller made of rickshaws and machine guns, with Mickey Rourke as a French villain and “Twilight” actor Kellan Lutz a hyper-buff art student who isn’t everything he seems. But the film’s anthropological interest in Indonesia is the smartest thing in an otherwise familiar scramble of kidnapped babes, expensive jewelry and millions of bullets.
Indonesia, as the opening credits inform, is home to the largest Muslim population in the world. Writer-director-model Conor Allyn and his co-writer, dad Rob, live part time in Java and their intimacy with the country shows. Javanese characters, such as local star Ario Bayu, who plays a detective, offer us credible glimpses of the culture, detailing the proper way to kiss a hand, wear batik and put up with Lutz’s Jake when he’s forced to inquire about, for instance, what the Koran has to say about piercing female genitalia.
Jake, a handsome, heroic lunk, witnesses a terrorist attack, and as he gets wrapped up in the manhunt he takes so much body damage that his abs must be armor. But he suffers more from the script, which spends the first hour having everyone dismiss him as a lucky moron — exactly the image Lutz’s post-vampire career needs to avoid. “Every American thinks he’s Rambo,” groans a native cop.
With Rourke sidelined except for the occasional splash of color, the film’s real star — and probably the most expensive thing in the budget — are the explosions. Be they suicide or bazooka, they’re big and gosh-darned beautiful.
“Java Heat.” Rated R for violence throughout, language and sexual references. Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes. Playing at the Arena Cinema, Hollywood