On the surface, Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash is a love letter to the melodramatic brand of action cinema popular in director Edwin’s native Indonesia during the eighties.
However, it doesn’t take much closer inspection to realise the film sets out to subvert the machismo associated with the genre at that time, telling a story about a broken generation in the final decade of the country’s military dictatorship.
After introducing us to Ajo (Marthino Lio) playing a tense game of chicken, a voiceover says that “only guys who can’t get hard fight with no fear of death”.
In Edwin’s film, adapted from the 2014 novel of the same name by Eka Kurniawan, his lead character’s violent tendencies stem from his inability to get it up – although this isn’t played as a childish joke.
As the years progress, we see how this affects his blossoming relationship with Iteung (Ladya Cheryl), a pair who fell in love at first punch when she was sent to attack him after Ajo targeted her boss.
Kurniawan’s novel was widely considered to be ‘unfilmable’ due to how it leapt through time, also featuring several subplots scattered over the years. Upon reading it, the director knew he was interested in an adaptation, but wanted to meet the author first.
In the latest edition of our free digital magazine The Lowdown, Edwin discussed how he wrestled with the novel to bring it to the big screen.