Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Kepong Gangster (2012) 甲洞

"Whaddya mean you don't stock Schwarzkopf's extra strong hold gel?!?!"

At a glance:
Really organised crime:
Agreeing beforehand us pipes, you sticks.
As Jordan Chan learned in The Wall (2002), just because you smoke hard, doesn't mean you look hard. The tired Malaysian gangster genre unfortunately continues with a most unrealistic, though earnest addition - Mahu Pictures / Ram Entertainment's RM 2.09 million-grossin Cantonese cringer Kepong Gangster (2012) a.k.a 甲洞. Betrayin a title card prologue that hints towards a gangland epic with real provenance (e.g. Johnnie To's much celebrated Election a.k.a. 黑社会 duology), it doesn't take long before the highlight-finned prettyboys come out to play, brandishin their suspect Cantonese accents, rented watermelon knives and temporary tribal tattoos, to strike fear into the hearts of mostly one another, since there's probably insufficient funds to include elements like - oh I don't know - the police? This laughable knock-off draws obvious parallels from Hong Kong's popular Young And Dangerous series but is difficult to enjoy due to the painfully derivative story and screenplay, not to mention some iffy humour at the start and protracted melodrama at the end.
Bad news on the doorstep:
The irony in its successful LPF appeal (overturnin the dreaded 18 ratin for a more box office-friendly PG13) is that you'd probably do need to be a 13-year-old to believe the events in the movie. While there are some useful instances (e.g. triad hand signal greetings), the already sore, low note of credibility cannot be redeemed by the fashionista five. Melvin Sia (any relation to Mers Sia from Chow Kit or are they one and the same?), Henley Hii (big Eagles fan perhaps), Hero Tai, Billy Ng and Rayz Lim come across as unblemished, homogenous hairdressers from Jinjang, all waitin to break into song. We can cut debutant director Teng Bee some slack for he's a music producer by trainin, but the commendable conviction here from both cast and crew is sadly lost to the characterisation. A solid story is needed to allow us to overlook the same MTV boyband stylings of Mark Chao and Ethan Juan in Doze Niu's highly effective Taiwanese tale, Monga (2010). Either that, or take heart from Louis Koo, who went against image consultants with his yellow-toothed street bum role in Protégé (2007).
Reminds me of:
Jovi Theng delivers.
The mid-tier boss played by pop group lead Jovi Theng is similar to Adam Corrie in Malay gangster movies. Surprisingly, he's the only one in the movie you'd buy. That is to say, he's the only who might actually pass as the bookie or pusher on the other line and not the nancy who's tryin to get you in on the Chinese New Year hair rebondin offer. Well done.
Perennial wonderment:
Who backs these projects? I saw a Dato's name in the openin credits. I hope they get better scripts next time.
Watch out for:
All we got to see of Linda Liao was a black bra strap. Cis! 
Taiwanese singer, MTV Mandarin VJ and bit-part actress Linda Liao Pei Ling 廖佩伶 aka 廖語晴. She plays the gangster's moll and provides for the movie's less embarrassin dramatic moments. Too bad, every time the movie starts to get a little steamy, it fades to black. Potong stim.
Most memorable line:
I'm not sure the context is correct but in the end there's an allusion to Bruce Lee's famous "be water" advice, when we are told that a tree will tumble durin a storm but not the grass, thus the latter bein the stronger.
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
Ain't seen Michael Chuah's critically-panned Fist Of Dragon (2011) a.k.a. 龍拳 but one sincerely hopes Kepong Gangster can be the launchpad of many careers, lest we endured it in vain. As for me, I'd sooner fancy a rerun of Budak Kelantan (2008) any day.★★

Bonus material:

Kepong gangsters or Kepong hairdressers?
I rest my case.