No kiasu jokes, promise ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

No kiasu jokes, promise

My rating:

Apologies to Singaporean readers for labeling this review "Made in Malaysia". You guys don't make that many movies, and I doubt I'll be watching so many as to justify creating a whole new "Made in Singapore" label. 'Sides, it stars one Malaysian actor and two Malaysian-born actors. (And hey, are we not, at heart, one nation country culture y'know what, forget it.) Having not watched any Singaporean films before, I had no idea what to expect - other than McGarmott's helpful comment that they tend to try too hard.

Well, yes, Kidnapper did. But I'd rather a movie try too hard than not try hard enough.

Lim Seng Huat (Christopher Lee) is a ne'er-do-well cab driver raising his son Wei Siang (Jerald Tan) on his own whilst fighting a custody case against his ex-wife. Wei Siang is kidnapped by the sadistic Ah Hu (Jack Lim) who mistakes him for the son of the wealthy Mr Sng - but even after discovering his mistake, Hu continues to threaten Lim for the $1 million ransom by torturing the boy. Hu's accomplice Mrs Sng (Phyllis Quek), the stepmother of the intended victim, begins to regret her involvement; but not even her revelation that her daughter Jia Wei (Regene Lim) is also Hu's child deters him. As Mrs Sng wrestles with her conscience, Lim scrambles to raise the money within the 36-hour deadline - before Hu loses patience and murders his son.

Here's what I mean by trying too hard: this is a somewhat over-directed movie. Director Kelvin Tong goes a little overboard with the arty shots, quick cuts and fancy colour treatment. Being unfamiliar with Tong's filmography, I don't know if this is his thing; here, the Tony Scott treatment is hit-and-miss, occasionally effective at generating suspense but also occasionally distracting. Also kinda overboard is the "parents will do anything for their children" theme, as demonstrated by Lim's increasingly desperate means to raise the ransom money. He gets beaten up (and pissed on!) by the Ah Longs whom he attempts to borrow money from, and goes so far as to seek out black-market organ traffickers. 'Cos Singaporean cab drivers are just that well-connected, it seems.

I keed, I keed. It's actually quite a slick little movie, and largely effective as a high-octane thriller. It has its fair share of plot holes - why does Hu keep pressing Lim for money he knows the penniless cabbie doesn't have? Why doesn't Lim go to the police when his predicament becomes more and more dire? - but it moves fast enough that you can set those questions aside and just go along for the ride. And the script is really quite smart, and has plenty of unexpected reversals in the cat-and-mouse game between Lim and Hu. There's a bit where Lim is making the ransom drop, and Hu makes him climb up and down several flights of stairs. It seems like Hu is just sadistically toying with him, and he probably is - but it's also part of Hu's plan to literally grab the money from him and run, when Lim is exhausted and unable to give chase.

And there's also some solid performances in here, chief amongst them Christopher Lee. His low-rent cabbie character is a far cry from evil wizards and Sith Lords (and I bet he's never heard that one before), but Lee never misses a beat through all the melodramatics the plot puts him through; he keeps the audience rooting for him from start to finish. Jack Lim also couldn't be more different from his role in Woohoo! - he plays a truly hissable villain, as cold and vicious as he is intelligent. There are hints of deeper motivation in him, something that made him particularly despise the bond between parent and child - it's a pity the film doesn't explore that further. I've read reviews that rubbish Phyllis Quek's acting, but I thought she was perfectly effective, if unexceptional. (Doesn't hurt that she's pretty damn hawt.) And there's a pair of terrific performances from Jerald Tan and Regine Lim, and they are exceptional for Asian child actors.

This is gonna be a pretty short review, because on the whole, Kidnapper is just well-made but unremarkable. What's particularly sad that is that it fails to nail its ending - it doesn't quite satisfactorily deliver its emotional payoff, both in terms of the villain's comeuppance and the hero's deliverance. (Also, I really wish films that lack the budget for proper car stunts would stop trying to do them in CGI. It never works! A car stunt is supposed to make you go "whoa!" A CGI car stunt just makes you go "cheh.") But it is well-made; that much is clear, and that's why it deserves three-and-a-half stars. Kelvin Tong may have tried a little too hard, but I sure wish some of that would rub off on our filmmakers. Most of those morons don't even try.

NEXT REVIEW: Andartu Terlampau... 21 Hari Mencari Suami
Expectations: siiigh


chicnchomel said...

let me know if you want to speak to Dato Rahim Razali ;P