Lagenda Budak Setan
I said in my 1st anniversary post that watching and reviewing Malay movies is like exploring a whole other world, and it really is. Did you know there's this Malay novel called Lagenda Budak Setan, authored by Ahadiat Akashah, that was, like, hugely popular back in the mid-'80s? I didn't, man. I only found out when I was reading up on Lagenda Budak Setan the film adaptation. It's actually quite fascinating to discover stuff like this, but it also makes me a little sad. Our society is so segmentized and ghetto-ized across racial lines, even in our pop-culture worlds. How to achieve 1Malaysia laa like this?
But what's even sadder is that, due to the novel's legions of fans, this insanely stupid movie is probably gonna pecah panggung.
Kasyah (Farid Kamil) is the "budak setan" of his college, an inveterate prankster and trouble-maker, but he reforms when he falls for Ayu (Lisa Surihani). They are separated for a year whilst he goes off to some isolated village for a research assignment, during which Ayu's mother (Sheila Mambo) persuades her to marry her abusive ex-boyfriend Azmi (Que Haidar). Thus when Ayu's friend Suzana (Raja Farah) breaks the news, the heartbroken Kasyah tries to get on with his life by getting a job with Emilia's (Shiqin Kamal) company. But wait! Turns out that after a violent argument with Azmi, Ayu was horribly disfigured in a car accident - so she got a whole new face through plastic surgery, and now she's actually Emilia! I am making none of this up. Oh, and when Emilia's company goes bankrupt, Kasyah gets another job with Kate (Nur Fazura), who also gets the not-at-all-unethical hots for the guy who works for her.
Look, I've never read the novel, okay? And given that it's 900 pages long, I probably never will, because I don't want to get a hernia. Maybe it's really really good, I dunno. All I know is that the movie sucks, and a great deal of its suckitude is due to its storyline, which would of course be from the book... but again, I shall cast no aspersions on a novel I haven't read. (Oh, maybe just one: Note the names of the author and his dashing romantic hero. Ladies and gents, I believe we have a Mary Sue! Okay I'm done.) I can certainly believe that director Sharad Sharan and screenwriter Armantono did a hackjob of an adaptation. The dialogue is terrible. The production design is ridiculous; the college is full of rejects from Grease 2, and Ayu's home is the world's most interior-designed kampung house. The soundtrack consists of one drippy little song that plays ooover and ooover again. The camerawork is annoying and distracting, with the constant shaky-cam and the deep close-ups that often can't even keep the actors' faces in frame.
But the storyline. Oh God, the storyline. Yes, there is Magic Plastic Surgery, there is domestic abuse, there are deep dark angsty secrets, there is a car crash, and there is not one but two inappropriate workplace relationships. But there's also amnesia! Yes, at one point someone gets violently assaulted, hit on their head, and gets amnesia (and possibly also brain damage). In fact there's more than one violent assault in this movie, none of which are ever reported to the police or brought to justice, so clearly this film takes place in an alternate reality in which society has broken down and anarchy rules the day. One of these violent assaults is perpetrated onto Kasyah by Kate's jealous ex-boyfriend, whom Kate dumped because he's gay. Yes. And lastly, Ayu/Emilia has a baby, and try and guess how that turns out. Go ahead, give it a shot. You can do it.
Y'see, Lagenda Budak Setan is the worst kind of soap opera - the kind that piles on cliche after contrivance after implausibility, all in the name of making its characters suffer for our entertainment. Its characters are thoroughly dislikable idiots whom we are expected to sympathize with; the first we see of our hero Kasyah is in a football match in which he beats up the referee and puts the guy in a hospital for a week. It has no idea how real people behave; Kasyah's college buddies apparently have a "we hate gurlz!" policy, and then later they shed heartbroken tears when he leaves for his research study. (Which makes this Farid Kamil's second movie in a row with a gay subtext.) And it has no conception of realism or common sense. Kate says she's going to L.A. to further her studies, and she tells Kasyah this before he even marries Ayu. Then she shows up to say goodbye at the hospital where Ayu is giving birth. Did she take 9 months to figure out how to buy a plane ticket, or is this some kind of mutant hellspawn baby that gestates in mere weeks? Well, bapak dia kan budak setan...
Can we please call a moratorium on Farid Kamil's acting career? Guy's the single worst leading man in the local film industry today. He's smarmy when he's supposed to be charming, petulant when he's supposed to be passionate, and confused when he's supposed to be sad. And he has absolutely no chemistry with Lisa Surihani. None. Zero. Zilch. Because you see, Lisa is a much better actor, and I'm thinking the reason why they keep getting paired together is that she's the only female lead who can do a scene with him and keep a straight face. One of the many dumb things this movie does is replace her with not-at-all-promising newcomer Shiqin Kamal midway through the movie; fortunately, around the same time we get Nur Fazura. She's not done a movie since Pisau Cukur, and she brings some much-needed liveliness to the proceedings. Oh, and Que Haidar? All is forgiven for Duhai Si Pari-Pari. You actually tried to give depth to Azmi, even though I don't believe for a second that there was any in the script.
And then it ends with a "Tamat Bahagian Pertama", because apparently Lagenda Budak Setan is a series of novels. The cinema I was at had a pretty good turnout, so a sequel seems likely - but I can already guess what happens next. Kate will return to Kasyah, but Azmi will show up again, kidnap her and demand Kasyah's baby as ransom. In the ensuing struggle, Azmi will be killed, but Kate will be paralyzed and wheelchair-bound. She will get depressed and attempt suicide, but the ghost of Ayu will appear to her and tell her to be strong for Kasyah. So Kate and Kasyah will be happy for a while, till Kate's ex-boyfriend shows up again and tries to make nice. But he's part of a secret gay ninja assassin squad who's plotting to ruin Kasyah's life, and he was hired by... Ayu's mum, who blames Kasyah for her daughter's death. And she has black magic powers that she employs to curse Kasyah, who must fight back by learning from a wise old kungfu pawang sifu. Then Kasyah will wake up one morning, Ayu will step out from the shower, and it will all turn out to be a dream.
NEXT REVIEW: Kecoh Betul