A Season with: Serigala Terakhir (2020)

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Over 10 years after the release of Upi Avianto’s gangster blockbuster, Serigala Terakhir (a.k.a. The Last Wolf), a sequel in the form of a 6-episode miniseries arrives. Helmed by Tommy Dewo (assistant director in A Copy of My Mind and Gundala), the story takes place a few years after the original movie. Alex (Abimana Aryasatya), previously a minor character, takes over the main stage from the opposite end. Some narrative elements remain, but, the rest suggests that it’s a completely different story seamed only by his existence.

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In the wake of ravaging, hyper-violent Indonesian gangster movies (such as The Raid series and The Night Comes for Us, in which Dewo also served as assistant director) that have made a name of itself, Upi’s Serigala Terakhir is among the distant, older cousins (along with Rudi Soedjarwo’s 9 Naga). It’s a helluva mix-and-match blockbuster—with gangster theme that looks like a Hong Kong Cat III movie, plot that blends local street brawl and underground crime tropes, and characters who dress flamboyantly as if it’s Opium War era. Unlike recent action-crime movies from the archipelago, it unfortunately never reaches the same heights—for getting muddled with melodrama, which apparently triggers the event in the series.

Review Serigala Terakhir Series (2020)
Abimana Aryasatya in red trousers as Alex, a former gangster enforcer in Serigala Terakhir

Serigala Terakhir mini series follows up with a seemingly well-intended story of redemption, vengeance, and unfinished business. Alex, fresh from the jail, returns to find his lover (Hannah Al Rashid), and starts over, living like normal people. His arrival is often marked with a preach on the radio, endorsing a life-changing redemption. Unbeknownst to him, Naga Hitam—the syndicate he used to work for—demands his service. However, Naga Hitam, now led by the crown prince (Revaldo) isn’t the only one; the rival gang, Kapak Merah (led by charismatic Tio Pakusadewo), is eager to recruit him at any cost. Alex finds himself reluctantly tangled in the underground once more; even, when all he wants to do is to live free. Maybe, just maybe, some business are better left unfinished?

Serigala Terakhir elaborates the conflicts from some unfinished business left by the original movie. There are, at least, two characters including Alex that bridge this story to the source material. But, in the development, the narrative strays away almost too quickly in an attempt to make a standalone story—which barely works since its major shock factor is tied directly to the movie. Almost all the finest elements are pushed onto the pilot episode—making it the most solid episode among six. Consequently, the series runs out of gas almost as quickly as they revv.

Review Serigala Terakhir Series (2020)
Rizky Nazar as a gangster enforcer in Serigala Terakhir miniseries.

The problem with stories like Serigala Terakhir is the gravity. With settings mostly in Jakarta, such a gangster story in real life has never been as glam as how it’s depicted. The movie is able to gain some grounds when the story embraces enforcer-like thug (known locally as ‘preman kampung’) as the protagonist—coupled with some suburban street brawl elements—making it more believable. The mini series, however, ventures into the gangster organization like it’s an open secret; but, the gangsters still feel distant conceptually even when they fight on a public area or work in nightclubs (and, ridiculously, billiard arenas).

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The murky, treacherous spider-web that crime movies take proud on barely exists, even when the premise suggests shifting allegiances is a recurring motif. The gangster war works a little straightforward with brawl-for-a-brawl dynamic. One time, Naga Hitam’s underlings led by hot-headed Toba (Bizael Tanasale) will attack Kapak Merah’s convoy, usually led by his mirroring persona, Norman (Agra Piliang), only to get interfered by Naga Hitam’s second in command, Ariel (Rizky Nazar). Some other times, what happens is the otherwise; but, this time, it’s Rizal (Kamal Hafid), Kapak Merah’s second in command who interferes. This repetitive pattern bloats Serigala Terakhir that it often relegates the underground politics and the pivotal plot development tied to the first movie into the background.

A 6-episode Serigala Terakhir feels bloated even when some elements are left unexplored. The gangster politics barely exists; when, they do, they feels unconvincing and straightforward. Even, simpler series like Preman Pensiun with the movie adaptation or short movie like Loz Jogjakartoz are able to deliver the politics adeptly and more believably. Serigala Terakhir‘s well-intended story, in the end, is buried beneath the bloated, poorly executed brawls.

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