Sunday, August 14, 2005

[Screen Singapore] Jefri Zain - Gerak Kilat

Touted as Singapore's own James Bond, it's of no surprise that this movie borrows heavily from Dr No. From plentiful buxomy bikini clad babes, to the familiar signature tune (yes, it is played, and so easily identifiable), you must view this movie in the same nature as Cleopatra Wong and Ring of Fury to enjoy it thoroughly.

The first time we see Jefri Zain, secret agent extrodinaire, is at Changi Beach, where he is having a great time frolicking with beach chicks. He chances upon his compatriot Ali, whose lifeless body is washed ashore. Picking up Ali's lighter-camera gadget, he returns to his home in his Mercedes sports car (no, no Aston Martin here, but the number plate's JZ1, dig it?) to investigate further.

And yes, his home is the local headquarters of their organization (we're never told what it is, neither which country do they work for), with the secret entrance beneath his bathtub! We see the equivalent of Q and Moneypenny, who doubles up as a Bond girl in the second half of the movie. There's even a similar scene to Ursela Andress' famous bikini emerging from the sea, though you've got to trade the bikini for the baju here.

However, the villains are where the laughs are at. A clandestine terrorist cell living in an extremely large undergound bunker lair (stretches with entrances from some offshore island, and the mainland), with minions by the hundreds. Their motive is strangely unknown, and their commander is no Dr No or Blofeld though. Actually, there are quite a number of scenes which doesn't explain themselves, like leading Jefri around their lair in a tour like manner (to show off their training doctrine?) With subordinates like Number 4 and Botak, they take pride in their various plots to defeat Jefri Zain.

As with Bond villains, they have a torture chamber (Room X) with elaborate devices (water, freezer, heater, etc), but gives our heroes some 30 minutes of free time as they presumably go for a smoke break. There's a funny scene here though, with the female bra used as a plot device, hiding a miniture gun, and a homing device.

Speaking of devices, this movie is no short of gadgets like pen-guns, exploding cigarettes, flash-bang lighters, tracking devices, bracelets that spew acid, and extremely huge radio communication devices. They might seem low tech today (even the old Bond films seem low tech), but back in the 60s, they must have been a blast with the audience.

The acting's cheesy by today's standards, but you can see that the actors do take their roles quite seriously. The character and suaveness of Jefry Zain models after Connery's Bond, as he bitchslaps woman around, and in one swift and rough motion, can rip off their dresses (gee...). What digs also is the premise of the film, as we get to see Singapore in the 60s, with foot chases around town (Capitol theatre anyone?), the old vehicles, Clifford Pier, and the various characters used in this film - Chinese, Malay, Indian, Ang Moh too.

Extremely campy to watch these days, it plays out like an Austin Powers meets Get Smart movie, but nonetheless, FUN!

Those interested in catching this film, there is one more screening at the Alliance Francaise on 24 Aug 05 Wed 1900hrs.

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