Thursday, February 02, 2006

Movie Review: 15:The Movie

The last time a local film actually garnered critical acclaim, Cleopatra Wong was still karate chopping up policemen in shorts. Hailing from 21th century Singapore, I was all eager to watch 15. Too eager, on hindsight, as I passed up Broken Flowers and Julie Delpy for it.

Opening sequence with 3 leads playing bow-and arrows in a metaphorical wasteland (Nope! There's no desert in monsoon-ravaged Singapore), a sense of foreboding crept up inside me. A film which purports to capture street life grittiness but opens with some high arty farty concept, is suffering from a clash of ideologies, something akin to getting Jesus and God of Mercy tattooed on your back.

So the movie meanders down this slippery path of pseudo high concept art. We find Ah-bengs, or 'street thugs' in colloquial Hokkien, not in the streets spilling blood, but hanging around in their not-so-spartan HDB flats musing about the vagaries of life and occasionally breaking into colourful song-and-dance. Sounds a lot like my life, thank you.

Granted, there were a few great takes of self-mutilation and drug-smuggling, which was stomach churning even to the hardboiled. But the terrible pacing blunted the scenes and ruined the senses. It was with much gratitude that I survived the extreme tedium, thanks to my fingers on the FAST FORWARD button. Mind you, it was not just a casual fast forward, but a SUPER TURBO FAST FORWARD of 8x.

15 would indeed be a smashing hit as a 15 min long feature. Royston Tan shouldn't have dragged 15 out from the relative comforts of short films to the hazards of full-lengths. A full-length film needs to be sustained by a story, a heartbeat. Witness how blood courses through the veins of Amores Perros, or Cidade de Deus. A concept alone, even if wrapped up in garish lighting and high contrast colours, is simply not enough.

IMDb Rating: 4.7 (-1 for lack of Ah Lians in a movie about Ah Bengs. Oh! Ludicrious!)

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