This action movie inspired by the bravery of decorated Iban tracker and soldier Kanang anak Langkau, who served in the Malaysian Armed Forces during the communist insurgency, had so much potential.

For one thing, the role of the late Datuk Kanang is played by his son Langgi anak Kanang who, like his father, is a soldier in real life.

So if you’re watching and wondering how they found a guy with such a strong resemblance to Kanang, now you know.

The film is backed by a RM5mil budget and a cast of notable actors like Adi Putra and Johan As’ari.

Unfortunately, Kanang Anak Langkau: The Iban Warrior suffers under the weight of its lofty ambitions in telling the full story of Kanang. Somehow, all the elements don’t come together.

At the beginning, we meet Kanang as a young man who is asked to join the army because of his exceptional tracking skills. But we are never really shown what exactly it is that makes him a great tracker. Is it because he can identify anything in the jungle in a snap? Does he know where the enemy is going based on the sound of rustling leaves? It’s all a mystery. It doesn’t help that Kanang’s transition from inexperienced youth to decorated adult soldier is done abruptly.

The movie also features a lot of combat sequences to show Kanang and his men in action in the jungle. There is some intensity as we wonder how these men will fare against a ruthless foe led by Nam Yat (Jimmy Leong). Plenty of bullets are fired but the battle scenes are muddled – it’s unclear who’s shooting at whom – and so they miss the mark.

Despite Adi and Johan receiving top billing, they are underutilised and their characters are sadly forgettable. Each man barely has five lines in the whole movie.

Kanang anak langkau: The Iban Warrior

Putting up with jungle breath was the one thing he didnt sign up for. Photos: Tangan Seni

It’s best that you read up on Kanang or have some prior knowl­edge about his deeds before going into this film. Otherwise, the story would be lost on you as the movie doesn’t quite do justice to his legacy as one of the most decorated soldiers in Malaysian history.

Fortunately, Kanang Anak Langkau saves its best for last, in one harrowing scene where Kanang and his men are outnumbered in the jungle against the communists. Despite getting shot himself, Kanang pushes on and rallies his men to do the same with his famous battle cry of “Agi idup, agi ngelaban!” which roughly means to keep going as long as you’re alive.

Now that is some inspiring stuff and I couldn’t help but feel moved. The movie should also be given credit for giving excellent representation to the minority Iban community.

If you can overlook some of the larger flaws and just looking to be inspired, then Kanang Anak Langkau might be just what you’re looking for.

Kanang Anak Langkau: The Iban Warrior

Director: Bade Haji Azmi

Cast: Langgi Anak Kanang, Adi Putra, Aidil Aziz, Johan As’ari, Rosley Rusdi, Taufiq Hanafi, Jimmy Leong, Jerica Lai, Ruzana Ibrahim, Livonia Guing