Sunday, March 26, 2006

Invisible Waves

If this is going to be someone's maiden entry into Pen-Ek Ratanatuang's movies, then I dare say that he's not going to win any new fans with this piece of crap. Might even lose the old ones too. Not that I've watched all his films (missed the retrospective during the symposium last year), but Invisible Waves was a rude introduction.

It's basically an extremely weak piece of storytelling, with a non-existent, juvenile story. I equate it to a primary school kid's first composition, and the worst kid in class can come up with something more imaginative and interesting. The story does not engage at all, and the characters, you'd wish that they all die to save you the misery of trying to understand them.

So what if it's lensed by Christopher Doyle? Here, his images come up poorly. While the technique might work with Wong Kar Wai's movies (at least there's a decent, understandable story), someone should advise Doyle that one technique doesn't always necessary fit all. It makes you come across as a one trick pony. The sea, very interesting to look at? If you have meaning to it, fine, but there isn't. Oh, the characters walk out of the frame and you only hear voices. That's cool? No, what's with that dumb ship hull in the frame? It makes you wonder if it's done for the sake of doing it, rather than to go back to the old school method of properly tracking a scene.

And what of the weak story? For the first time, I'd say don't trust all the synopsis out there, even if it's It makes it sound more interesting, and could probably be filmed in a better way by an amateur filmmaker. Kyoji (Asano Tadanobu), a Japanese chef cum hitman living in Macau, is having an affair with his boss's wife. He's instructed to kill her, and like all obedient servant, performs the deed, and like all Hong Kong mafiaso movies, he has to take a hike to another country after the hit.

Which brings him to Phuket, Thailand, but not before actually having to spend an hour's worth of run time doing absolutely nothing on board a ship (which does not move by the way - tells you how good the production values are). It plays out like an unfunny, contrived episode of Mr Bean, where everything that could go wrong, would go wrong, with repetitive tired dialogue of having to deal with an unresponsive reception (makes you wonder if Asians are that dumb). He meets a single mother called Noi (Kang Hye-Jeong, I think pan-Asian collaboration getting hip these days, even if they speak horrendously in English), who is so weak a character, you could write her off the script as she does absoultely nothing, even at the ending (hello, we got a situation here and you're admiring your damn ring?). Don't bother too with wasting time and reading too much into many of the scenes, if there's any hidden message, it's pretentious, and as the title goes, invisible.

It doesn't matter anymore when Kyoji finally arrives at Phuket, gets into the same situation as while on the ship, gets robbed (oei, you hitman, but you're one heckuva lousy one), and gets help from Lizard, who turns out to be his hunter, tasked to silence Kyoki. But they sure beat around the bloody bush to get to this point. And from there, you would've wondered that in any reel or real world, the entire scenario as played out from that point all the way to the finale, is hokey. It's poor storytelling, it's bad script, it's utter crap. I also credit this film with having one of the weakest mob boss villain, with no credibility, and the actor playing him, zero expression. If I can give out the equivalent of the Razzies, this movie will win 11 of them - bad screenplay, bad acting (times 4), bad direction, bad cinematography, bad music, bad costumes, bad production design and bad picture.

The saving graces of the movie is actually the appearance of Hong Kong veterans Eric Tsang and Maria Cordero. Just the appearance, not their characters or what they do or say, just for that cheap laugh of "hey, I recognize them, what made them sign on the dotted line?"

I think it's high time that filmmakers realize that pieces of shit doesn't equate to works of art. This is pretentious art at its worst. This is a horribly reeking piece of shit, it's still early into the year, but already a contender for worst movie. Save your money, and save your time - don't even bother watching this, even if it's a pirated free copy. Find a better movie to sit on the Picturehouse's Oscar chair.

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