25 Jun

Turkish Indiana Jones – Son Osmanli: Yandim Ali

Posted by Bryan White | Monday June 25, 2007 | Reviews

Son OsmanliIt’s actually pretty inacurrate to call this movie Turkish Indiana Jones for a few reasons. Most importantly, people familiar with that insane subcategory of terrible movies, the Turkish ripoff, evident in such crimes as Turkish Star Wars, Turkish Star Trek, Turkish ET and Turkish Wizard of Oz, will not recognize the trademark ineptitude and stolen special effects in Son Osmanli. Also, there are no whips, no idols and no archaeology. I had to grab your eye somehow, though. At least the Turkish part is true. Once you see it, though, you can understand what I’m getting at. The Middle Eastern setting in the earlier part of the 20th century bring about the Indy aesthetic

Up to this point, I don’t think I’d ever seen a movie from the Middle East. I’ve been sitting on a bootleg of Valley Of The Wolves: Iraq, the Americans are evil war movie with Gary Busey and Billy Zane, for a while but I haven’t gotten around to watching it. I’ve also flirted with Bollywood in the past, but the movies are excessively long and from what I’ve seen in reviews, pretty much always the same story with different pop songs and dance numbers to change things up a bit. Short of the Old Boy remake and Bollywood Fight Club, my interest in that department is pretty low. But Son Osmanli, which translates to The Last Ottoman: Knock Out Ali, is something else entirely. I was shocked by the production values and the weight of the story. It is weighed down by its own tendency to go in too many directions at once, but it gets many things right and is a genuinely entertaining throwback to older action movies much like the appeal of the first Pirates of the Carribean.

Son Osmanli takes place in Istanbul in 1918 as the British have begun their occupation of Turkey. The nation is in crisis and there’s a widespread fear that with this occupation, they’ll lose their cultural identity. This is the beginning of the end for the Ottoman Empire. Enter Ali, when we meet him, he’s holding up a poker game in the back room of an Istanbul nightclub. He’s a scoundrel with a hear of gold, though, and as the movie progresses it’s revealed that he was once a prize fighter and a proud member of the Turkish navy until he beat the crap out of a British officer and jumped overboard. Ali is shot when he stops to help some Turkish soldiers who have been abandoned by British troops miles from their home. He hands off some money to the derelict platoon and the British troops demand to know what he gave them. Being the proud Turk that he is, he refuses, starts a fight, shoots a soldier and then barely manages to escape, having been shot himself. This brings him into the care of Osman Bey, a high profile figure in the Patriotic movement in Turkey, opposing the British colonists. His desire to help his country men puts him in Osman’s service where he begins sneaking Turkish statesmen out of the city. When he stops an assassination attempt on the charismatic General Mustafa Kemal, he finds a greater sense of destiny and patriotism. All the while, Ali finds his way to back to his old girlfriend, Defne, who is now married, seemingly against her will, to a crooked arms dealer and he must decide between running off to Europe with her or staying to fight the good fight for Turkey. There’s also a clumsy subplot about Ali’s teacher, who taught him to fight, who blames Ali for the death of his wife.

I don’t know much about the background of this character, but it the movie is based on a Turkish comic about Knock Out Ali. How faithful it is to the source material, I may never know, but I do know that it’s pulpy and fun. It’s also quite effective in making its hugely nationalistic point. At times even I was swept away in the pervasive hooray for Turkey vibe. The British are depicted as savage occupants who spit on Turkish culture at every opportunity. As a matter of fact, just about everyone not Turkish is depicted as a total asshole. It’s unfriendly in every way to the British, Armenians, Greeks and so on. I’d rather not get into the racial dynamics of the movie, though. For a pulpy, two-fisted action movie, it voices some bold opinions about neighboring nations.

Despite the racism around the margins, it’s still a very likable movie with very likable characters. Ali is very much the dashing hero. He spends much of the movie fucking dudes up. Anyone out to threaten the independence of Turkey can expect a fist in the mouth when Knock Out Ali is around. If they’re particularly nasty, they can expect to eat bullets or get a knife in the ribs, too. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, violence-wise, from this movie. When it begins, Ali seems to avoid killing people. During his poker game heist, he shoots the gun out of the hand of a protesting victim of his theft and during his escape, he shoots near the British soldiers in pursuit but never really shoots them. It doesn’t take long for the movie to change its tone, though. It’s not long before Ali actually puts bullets and knives into people and it is suddenly as violent as anything you might find in the west. Despite his penchant for sudden and thoughtless violence, Ali is still a very charismatic character. His actual fight scenes are impressive and he has a tendency to really launch people when he hits them.

The rest of the story works, too. There’s the love angle where Ali is reunited with Defne, despite the fact that he has hooked up with an Istanbul prostitute, and the twists and turns of the main plot as Ali works with the patriotic underground to free Turkey are effective. The only part that really dangles is the ongoing subplot about Ali’s old teacher trying to find and kill him. It pops into the story at strange times and brings the main plot to a halt. I suspect that it was a major angle in the comic books, but here it’s just not necessary.

All told, I was shocked by the high quality of this movie. It gets nearly everything right, has some solid pacing, a ton of great action scenes and when it’s trying to be funny, it’s actually quite funny. Also, just about everyone in the movie wears a fez, which couldn’t possibly be a cooler piece of headdress. This movie got no press in the United States aside from Twitch Film and I think more people should check it out.

Order Son Osmanli: Yandim Ali on Region 2 DVD at Amazon now!

17 Comments 

  1. August 4, 2007 6:47 am

    Cinema Suicide - A Celebration of Cheap Thrills

    […] I cut Son Osmanli, which I called Turkish Indiana Jones, some slack because it was a genuinely good movie with real […]

  2. September 11, 2007 4:35 am

    Ozan

    You said that it was nationalist. At that time, everything was true about Turkey.
    Turkish soldiers were restricted. I mean, If you dont believe me, you can reseach it.
    But please don’t say ”Turkish Indiana Jones”. He is different from Indinana Jones. Those kinds of people were real at that time. Ther were called ”Kulhanbeyi”.
    At that time, Some Ottoman soldiers (Yeniceri) couldnt be controlled. They tried to get money from the poor Turkish people. They tried to rape the poor Turks. So these kind of people started fighting. That’s why, They called ”Kulhanbeyi)
    These characters were totatally real.
    It’s about Ottoman culture. So Im sure that you cant understand it exactly, Eventhough You watch it in English.
    The Valley of the Wolves-Polat Alemdar(You call him Turkish Rambo)
    Yandim Ali(You call him Turkish Indiana Jones)
    That’s so stupid. You cant call them as popular American characters.

  3. September 11, 2007 5:30 am

    Bryan White

    I don’t doubt any of what you say. British colonization of the Middle East has a savage reputation. It’s probably the worst thing that ever happened to the region. I don’t doubt you at all, but I think there’s a disconnect in communication between my article and your understanding. No big deal. It’s an obvious culture clash.

    But you fail to understand my biggest point: I loved this movie.

    I also say that it’s not correct to call it Turkish Indiana Jones, but in the tradition of western reception of other, much older, much more ridiculous Turkish movies such as 3 Dev Adam (aka Turkish Spiderman) and Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (aka Turkish Star Wars) it just seemed to fit. Since you call Valley of the Wolves Turkish Rambo, you are obviously familiar with this. If you’re upset about it, don’t blame me, I didn’t start it.

    And if you must know, Twitch Film was the first site to call it Turkish Indiana Jones. I think you completely missed the sense of humor that is all over this site.

    Sorry if you were offended.

  4. September 12, 2007 1:59 am

    Ozan

    Oh no. I understand what you said. I just wante to share my opinion
    But yeah, You re right. There are a lot of horrible fake Turkish movies. Such as, Turkish Superman, T-Batman, or Dunyayi Kurtaran Adam.
    I think Dunyayi kurtaran Adam is the 2nd worst movie in the world.
    But, how could you find tis movie? I mean,I ve just watched it.

  5. September 12, 2007 5:30 am

    Bryan White

    It was a fansubbed bootleg. I saw the trailer at the twitchfilm.net a long time ago and always wanted to see it because it looked like a lot of fun. I’d like to find more movies like this. I just wish they had actual subtitled DVDs so I could buy them.

    I swear, buying a region free dvd player was the best thing I ever did for myself. I can watch movies from all over the world.

  6. August 27, 2008 11:05 am

    Funda

    I watched this DVD last week. It is a beautiful movie. I buy lots of DVDs when I visit Turkey and I picked the ‘Last Ottoman’ of the shelf without knowing what I was buying. From the cover picture of DVD I actually thought it was an old film until I decided to watch it with my English husband last week. He loved it too eventhough he wasn’t very happy about how English were shown on the screen but as he reads a lot about history he could’t argue it at all.

    I agree that this film hasn’t got any similarity with Indiana Jones movie, I can’t really understand how anybody can compare those two films. I like Indiana Jones, I can watch it again and again but the story, place, acting everything is different.

    To understand this film ,one has to have some knowledge about the Turkish history, which can be quiet confusing sometimes. There aren’t any explaination about the history in this film, I think the idea wasn’t to educate the audience but tell a love story, which happened at that time. Luckly I am reading a book about that period in Turkey so I managed to follow it better.

    For example the soldier that Ali killed on the boat wasn’t a british soldier, he was German. Eventhough we Turks were on the same side with Germans in that war, the Turkish history claims that Ottoman Empire was pushed into that war against their will, it was a German trick on Turks. So in the film when the German soldier tells off the Turkish officer for not joining Germans to celabrate their small victory ,Turks get angry because they don’t want to be in the war. Then an argument starts and Ali ends up killing the German in order to defend his Officer ,more importantly national pride.

    I personally don’t like watching films with subtitles because they don’t translate everything and sometimes the translation can be wrong. And it is really easy to miss some points. For instance the Istanbul prostitue was in fact Russian, the only way to tel this, from her broken turkish in Russian accient. I suppose that was to indicate how multi national the Ottoman was at the time and how some foreigners lived and loved Ottoman as their own country, took risks to help in those difficult days. This was important because some Turks didn’t hesitate to sell their country to foreigners for their own benefits.
    So I don’t agree that there was unjustified racism in the film. Defne’s Greek husband was also sympathetic towards Turks, his wife was a Turk, whom he seemed very much in love with.

    Ali like many Turks weren’t aware of what was going on in their country, people weren’t literate or they were just forgotton by the government. Ali wans’t aware of the real danger until he started to realize it and his love became irrelevat against his country.
    I am not sure about this particular character Ali, but the evets were true and there were many guys like Ali in Istanbul in those days.

    I am glad that you liked this film. It is very different movie in my opinion, I wouldn’t have expected from anybody from outside to understand it at all. it is nice to find out that people from completely different cultures have interests to watch this kind of films. Most of your findings about history and culture quite true.
    Thanks

  7. August 27, 2008 1:51 pm

    Lurple

    There’s actually a lot of interest in Turkish films among our somewhat bizarre movie circle, but the lack of subtitles is really holding them back from getting more notice. For whatever reason English subtitles- even fansubs- seem to be non-existent for many Turkish films.

    Hopefully the continued internet/globalization of the film world will have a positive effect on this, and subtitles will start showing up. Really good subs sometimes point out some of the little cultural details you mention if they are pertinent to the film, Funda.

    And as one fansubber once said: “Subtitles are like women: they can beautiful or faithful, but rarely both.”

    He might be wrong, but the quote is kind of amusing. ;)

  8. August 29, 2008 8:04 am

    Funda

    Why not, it is quite possible:))))))))))))

    I am not sure who is responsible for the subtitles. Doesn’t the director or anybody that puts so much effort to make this film have any saying on this.

    A few years ago when I went to the London film festival to see The Distance and the director of the film Nuri Bilge Ceylan had a chat with the audience, I wanted to ask him the same question because it was exactly the same situation. He seemed to have a very good English himself, I really wondered if he felt frustrated to see what he wanted to say didn’t get across.

    There are lots of people in Turkey, who have an excellent education and speak the language really well, why these people are not doing something about it?

    I may look into this.

  9. August 29, 2008 9:37 am

    Lurple

    I assume that in many cases people feel that it just isn’t worthwhile financially; that the time it takes to make the subtitles won’t be worthwhile because there isn’t enough interest in the movie overseas to sell many copies. In a lot of cases when the movies came out that was probably true, so subtitles were never made. And now when they get cheaply slapped onto DVD they just aren’t taking the time to make subtitles, I guess.

    I’ve talked to one or two folks from Turkey recently that have started to make fan subtitles for a movie or two that they know there’s some interest in. It really is a fair amount of work for someone to do for free, so it’s a real labor of love. I’ve cleaned up English subs for my own movies once or twice (fixing spelling, punctuation, etc), and even that was a lot of work.

  10. August 29, 2008 9:57 am

    Bryan White

    Wow, Funda! Thanks for coming by and clarifying these things. Son Osmanli doesn’t go out of its way to indicate that character X is actually THIS nationality because the movie was never intended for an international audience. A certain assumption is made that if you’re watching the movie, you’re probably Turkish and speak the language and you’ll understand the subtleties of any given character’s spoken language. There’s an aspect of the Korean revenge movie, Oldboy, that depends on you speaking the language to understand as well and I can’t get anyone to clarify it for me.

    I had to track down a fansub subtitle pack in order to watch this movie since Son Osmanli was never intended to be seen outside of Turkey. Maybe it was shown in select European markets where there was a much more dense Turkish population but this sort of movie didn’t get ANY North American release.

    I’ve seen fansubs in the past that actuually go out of their way to define certain nuances of the language to western viewers. Typically, in Japanese movies, when characters use unfamiliar slang or make some kind of cultural reference, there will be a supplementary subtitle that tells you what they’re talking about. I have NEVER seen a commercial set of subtitles do this. I would have loved something like that for Son Osmanli because there is a very significant historical subtext in the movie that I think is important for westerners to understand if they’re going to see the movie. It works fine as a two fisted action movie but the end of the Ottoman Empire and World War 1 add a context to the movie that elevates it a bit.

  11. September 7, 2008 7:05 am

    Nalan Yilmaz

    Son Osmanli is indeed one of the best periodic Turkish movies.

    It is not a 100% accurate depiction of the era it is set in, but then the film was never marketed nor indeed did it set out to be a historically accurate drama.

    It is entirely based on a comic.

    I am not a fan of Cansu Dere, i do not believe she can act in the slightest, but the woman can sure wear a dress well!! she was afterall a model previously :P
    Ofcourse, watching these types of films, you will never be able to fully grasp the movie unless you are a native speaker of the language and know the history of the country rather well.

    Much like when i was watching Nightwatch & Daywatch

    apparently the movies are littered with Stalin era references and specific Russian culture inclusion, which as a non Russian i did not even pick up.

    Still… a good movie, is a good movie..in any language!!

  12. November 3, 2008 8:47 am

    Caramel

    Hi there
    I have read these posts and just want to add my thoughts. I am a foreign movie buff and really love the essence of these types of movies and how different they are to Hollywood.

    My new found interest in Turkish movies has grown from watching the new wave of dubbed Turkish TV serials on Arabic television – and I can honestly say that I am really impressed. I wasnt quite sure what to expect from Turkish movies but after watching Son Osmanli, its definately left me wanting to watch more. Son Osmanli hits the right notes for me — like going to a restaurant and satisfying your taste buds by trying a litle bit of everything — comedy, history, action, romance etc and its all done very nicely. Perhaps not perfectly, but its that very raw style that attracts me…in movies that is ;-)

    Turkish cinema clearly has a lot to offer to the global film platform.

    A side note – it’s not easy getting your hands on English subtitled Turkish movies in the UK so I am planning a trip to Turkey to sort that out!

  13. January 10, 2009 11:58 pm

    Turkish Cowboy

    This movie has NOTHING to do with Indiana Jones… In fact, this is based on a cartoon character that was created long before Indiana Jones… let’s get our facts straight and do not confuse this movie with neither the retarded movie that was later called Turkish starwars nor the Valley of the wolves Iraq movie that was purely made to manipulate people’s feelings to make $$$ by producers who do not care about anything but money… this movie is about the independence war against the armies of France, Italy, Britain, and Greece after WW1… how can this be remotely connected to Indiana Jones.

  14. April 17, 2009 9:54 pm

    TarsTarkas.NET Blog » Blog Archive » Who are my links - Cinema Suicide

    […] Cinema Suicide is “A Celebration of Cheap Thrills”, run by Bryan White who I have run into on Something Awful and Badmovies.org. He has a relatively new blog where he writes reviews of the many films he watches, most of which are the trashy variety. That makes him a kindred spirit to here, as TarsTarkas.NET is filled with all sorts of horrible crap in addition to hidden gems (or not so hidden gems.) We’ve both survived Catman 2: Boxer’s Blow (a badge of honor there!), he’s discovered the 9 Deaths of the Ninja, and he even has gone over a Turkish film Son Osmanli: Yandim Ali. […]

  15. November 9, 2009 12:02 pm

    khawla

    i discover the movie last week and i watched it the original version i mean in turkish knowing that i m tunisian and i have just started my 3rd turkish lessons. it is incredible but i understand 80% of the story may be because tunisia was part of the ottoman empire so i know the history and further my trip to turkey last summer i understand the turkish cuture, the nationalisme whish is still deeply exist in turkey. i had the opportunity to meet people in istanbul who have the same profile of Ali. for me as arab ali is reflecting the real oriental man.. the protective solidair and solitair man the loyal who can offer his life for his belief and country who value women.
    i really injoyed watching the movie. and i love that song of dilek turkan amazing voice.

  16. January 27, 2012 3:38 pm

    Taner

    Loving all the banter about a Turkish film here! So proud!

  17. December 25, 2013 2:06 am

    Ahmad

    i love this movie and i watched it more than once … wonderful songs too and i wish someone helps me with the names of the different songs in that movie and the names of the singers please … thanks


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