Saturday, September 01, 2012

My Ghost Partner (人鬼拍挡 / Ren Gui Pai Dang)

How this film managed to secure a theatrical release is one of the greatest mysteries in the local film calendar. Labelling it as bad is an understatement, because My Ghost Partner can't even compare to a schoolkid with a camcorder on his very first film project. This film screams Amateur! from the get go, and is riddled with so many missteps, that it's almost a miracle the cast and crew didn't walk off the set knowing that they're putting their names down on probably one of the worst productions anyone can be associated with. It's a disaster in all aspects of the production, and should be confined to the screens of its filmmakers only, rather than to unleash its torture amongst the good people paying good money in the hopes that something good may have come out of it.

In the screening I was in, a total of four persons were in the 80 seater hall. Myself, a couple who was more interested in making out in the corner, and an elderly gentlemen who was bored to tears. There's no character development, not that one is expecting any, and the jokes here are unfunny, recycled from bad television sitcoms that are on the re-run. It involves ghosts just to cash in on the genre, but it's neither scary nor comedic, in its hopes that it could be branded as a horror comedy. In desperation it threw in a gambling motif, only for that to turn out laughable. And what's more curious are the hundreds of Small and Medium Enterprises which had backed the production, as seen in the end credits, which I am now interested to know how many had regretted their good names now forever tainted with this half-baked effort.

My Ghost Partner has an idea that unfortunately in the hands of writer-director-producer-editor-and what other hats he might be wearing- Huang Yiliang, one time television actor, turned into something of a mixed bag. He may have the inspiration of gelling together all genres he's interested in, into a feature film, but this couldn't have been more disjointed. It begins with the badly shot introduction of four persons, Shi (Huang Yiliang himself), Fei (Brandon Wong), and their two lady companions (Yang Libing and Carole Lin), but whoever did the tacky opening title couldn't count up to three, and only mentioned that this group of three (not four?) were orphans. So what?

There are plenty of issues like this that's wrong with the story. Ideas and thoughts get thrown around by the bucketloads, then easily forgotten. Tattoos on Shi and Fei, representing Defeated in a single Chinese character, varies in tone, depth and colour, only because we all know this cheap production probably paid a part time intern to paint it onto the actors. Scenes pop up suddenly with nary a thought on narrative flow, such as when the group are missing Shi, they decide that helping random strangers against fake mediums was more important than probably saving the life of a friend who fell overboard in the sea, so we have an extended scene to show that despite our protagonists being conmen, they have good hearts. OK.

The film also paints Singapore as a land of gamblers and gangsters decked our in leather with multi-coloured hair, parading the streets in broad daylight. And I don't see why not, since the police force got portrayed as dim witted buffoons here, and again, thrown in for the sake of telling us how easy it is to dupe law enforcement in many a street corner gambling den. The introuction of Fei's sister, a gambling queen, also gets thrown in for good measure, and for no particular reason other than to occasionally nag Fei, and the group, preaching the virtues of gambling with modesty, rather than to bust the house and having gangsters right up your alley in case they're sore losers.

The titular ghost and ghost partner refers to Fei and Shi, with the latter turning into a spirit after an unfunny death, and ghost effects are so cheaply done, it's actually the highlight in this movie. In light of the hungry ghost festival, Shi returns as one, perpetually hungry and wanting to eat, until the story decided to throw in a trio of girls (led by Dawn Yeoh in a wheelchair), one of whom catches the attention of these two men, and yet in another extended and painful subplot complete with scenes that don't make sense and flow logically, have these two romance this woman, in the most juvenile way possible. Even five year olds will not be amused with the attempts at comedy here.

Worse, Taiwanese actor/host Zeng Guo Cheng also got roped in to up the star power, and does nothing other than to prance around on screen. I'm quite certain his contract for working on the film probably had a clause that reads "Willing to do anything and act like a buffoon", because that's all he does here. By now this film has about 10-15 characters, most of whom stand around and do nothing, or come and go as they please according to the whims of the director, depending on who's calendar and schedule is free for the shoot that day. And if that's not all, Huang Yiliang decided it's best to finish it all off with a finale that's likely inspired by his favourite God of Gamblers clone, just so that he can film a scene in a high-class, high stakes game that's no better than Harry Yap's Happy Go Lucky finale starring Fann Wong.

And the joke here, which I wonder if the filmmakers even noticed, is the botched attempt by the dealer in this high stakes game, during a simple, rote and basic level requirement to shuffle and deal cards. I mean, if there's a lack of meticulousness in the filmmaker's part to even address this, it'll give you a good idea on how the general production went, riddled with continuity errors, and slip-shodiness that even film students would be wary about, and nipped in the bud. And as if to continue the torture, the film then spun around to include family melodrama that relied heavily on bad acting and scripted lines that were even worse, coupled with the last ditch attempt to throw in ghost children (urban legend has it they are the ones that are prayed to for luck in gambling) with a penchant for dressing up as Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee and the likes. You can laugh at the cheap impersonations, really.

Production values are cheap and inconsistent, especially sound, and it goes to show this film was made without love, or more importantly, pride. If it's a quick buck it's after, it will not find gold at the box office. Rather this should be quickly flushed down the bowl and erased from memory, and is that unremovable stain in our nation's filmography. Think of it as something bad that you've ingested, that you want it expelled through your bowels soonest possible.

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