Tuesday, August 16, 2005

[Screen Singapore] Perth

Perth is Harry Lee's retirement plan. As an ex-army commando regular turned security supervisor of a shipyard, he leads a nonchalant life, where he regularly exclaims to others that he's a simple man with little materialistic desires, and harbours a goal to settle in Perth, Australia, where life down under is said to be good.

When retrenched, he seeks employment as a taxi driver, but ever looking for that break in life to earn more cash to achieve his objective. However, things turn out more complicated for Harry. When sober, we see the empty facade Harry exudes to others, but we learn of the true state of his life when in drunkenness, pouring out his woes to his friends - he's separated from his cheating, gambling wife, and his son refuses to acknowledge him.

His is a lonely sad life, and this movie takes a look at the life of the forgotten pioneers of Singapore's materialistic success. We follow his path to the seedier side of the Lion City, into the world of pimps and prostitutes, where he has a lucrative job to ferry the girls to their customers, no questions asked. A depression-proof job, says his friend Angry Boy Lee.

Somehow, coffeeshops feature prominently in Singapore movies of late, and Perth is no different, where characters sit around and rant about the authorities, give subtle jibes on the army, and the eventuality of army regulars after their retirement from the uniformed services. They go on about how a better life in Singapore equates first to having a good education, how materialism has crept into society's moral fibre, and the greener pastures available abroad for the lowly skilled. The jibes on the ang-moh's are not subtle though, them being cursed at and assaulted.

We know Harry is a violent man from his inner thoughts, but early in the film, it's like his bark is deadlier than his bite. The occassional rant aside, Harry is a man who values faithfulness and loyalty. He fails to see that though his family might not exhibit these values (probably due to his inner violent nature which led to domestic violence), his friends like Angry Boy and Selvam, actually do.

The subplot on love and his budding relationship with a Vietnamese callgirl at times drags the movie, but it is necessary to lead the movie to its extremely violent finale. The language used throughout is colourful, and I could not think of a local Hokkien expletive not spewed in this film.

Perth looks like a one man show from its trailer and poster, with Lim Kay Tong putting in a wonderful performance in shouldering the movie, but gladly, a cast of familiar (and perhaps stereotypical) supporting characters help add some depth and sometimes, dark humour. You'll see familiar faces from local TV productions too, like Channel 8's Liu Qiu Lian as Harry's wife. From the laughter amongst the audience, Angry Boy Lee and Selvam are easily favourite characters of some.

It's a dark and gritty film, some might consider a local adaptation of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. But perhaps expectations will be set too high if benchmarked against that classic. This is the story of Harry Lee, not Travis Bickle, so put the comparisons aside, and enjoy the ride.

Perth opens islandwide this week.

Technorati Tag:

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...