Tuesday, August 29, 2006

[DVD] City Sharks (2003)

Look Who's Driving Ma!

When the movie premiered in 2003, I wasn't interested in the film because it starred Nicholas Lee, whose character I abhorred in Under One Roof. It's nothing personal, but somehow felt that the movie won't be worth my time. How wrong was I, now watching the DVD and looking back. The production's pretty slick and professional looking, with an interesting story to tell - not anything sophisticated, but decently entertaining for a commercial film, which should have done better at the box office if not for audiences like me who didn't lend support back then.

The movie tells the story of 3 orphans, and coincidentally of different races (to highlight our multi-cultural society?) - Mike (Nicholas Lee), Jeff (Sheikh Haikel) and Chief (Hans Isaac). They're losers in life, until Mike chances upon a loanshark's little electronic black book of contacts, and launches into a mini-project with the others to pretend to be the debt collectors, going across the Causeway to reclaim (illegally of course) 1 Million Riggit to save the orphanage they grew up in.

So it's essentially a road trip for this city boys to the kampungs of Malaysia, pretending to be loan sharks (hence City Sharks), and while they go about their collection, they are chased by, check this - the original sharks from Singapore, gangsters in Malaysia for stepping into their turf, and a girlfriend who was dumped.

It's an entertaining movie with a feel good factor, never mind the mild but frequent cursings and swearings. Built on a common theme of adversaries finding brotherhood amongst themselves, it's a simple setup which doesn't try to take itself too seriously, or try to be too sophisticated. There are enough quiet moments to complement set action pieces, and even then, they're usually played for laughs.

While there were a number of female characters, the romance portions were found lacking. Between Sherry (Corinne Adrienne) and Mike, there was little chemistry, and between Samuel and Betty it was too artificial. But anyway the romance entanglement was never the main focus of the story, though I dug Michelle Saram's sado-masochist character called Deanna (incidentally, in Sheikh Haikel's other movie Army Daze, his object of obsession was Deanna Yusoff) who gets turned on with pain.

I thought Nicholas Lee was pretty decent as one of the leading men, with his overacting which suited the movie and story just fine. Haikel was essentially playing a larger than life version of himself as an Afro-Rapper wannabe, while Hans Isaac completes the trio with his brooding angry demeanour. While there is chemistry amongst them, at times it was just a wee bit contrived, but watch the DVD extras where they really ham it up for the camera.

The supporting casts were mainly drawn from familiar TV faces from both sides of the Causeway, with Koh Chieng Mun, Moses Lim, Marcus Chin, Eileen Wee, Keagan Kang (a hoot with his faux pas Aussie accent), Lim Kay Tong, Afdlin Shauki and Zaibo lending their weight to complete the ensemble. While some were bit cameo roles, I thought that it provided some fun in watching them bring their characters to life with limited screen time. If you had watched S11, you might recognize Kevin Murphy too in one of the scenes.

But what really made the movie, is its array of songs, arranged by the talented Don Richmond, and with other contributions from local bands like The Observertory. To me, music enhances the emotions of certain scenes, and here, be it madcap montages, comedy or serious moments, the music is just top notch. You don't have many local films having their own published soundtrack, so this is one gem to look out for at music shops, if you can find it.

Highly recommended, and my opinion was if it's done today, it would probably get a decent audience it deserves, probably even making a box office killing I reckon.

The Code 3 DVD surprisingly contains a whole lot of extras, which makes it worthwhile to own, and makes it one of the better local DVDs out there. There are 3 theatrical trailers, a music video for the theme song Stellarblowout by Skrooloose and various deleted/extended scenes, coming from a first cut duration of about 2.5 hours. It also has a feature commentary by director Esan and film editor Bing Li, together with Sheik Haikel and Nicholas Lee, which is entertaining enough as they recount the set experiences and shared information on the making of.

Deleted scenes - Mike and Jeff in the kitchen talking about collecting debts (extended scene) 3mins, Sherry and Fisherman (Zaibo) in truck (extended scene) 1.5mins, Sharks pick up Al (extended scene) 1.5mins, Sharks in seat covers (deleted scene) 1min, Sharks in trouble (extended scene) 1.5mins, and an alternate ending, which thank goodness wasn't used, because it's kinda choppy and draggy, and quite unbelievable too.

There's also a "Behind the Scenes" segment (13mins 15s) - showing the cast monkeying around the film set, of being "tupperware", having the focus put on the cast in between shoots, and it sure looked hell lotta fun. While the characters in the movie might seem artificial in their interactions at times, you can't deny the chemistry on set, with their incessant crapping.

Also included is a City Sharks Documentary "Heart of Darkness - the Making of a Comedy" (15mins 30s). A mockumentary done in a Survivor reality tv style with plenty of individual bitching sessions by cast and crew alike, as they recount (fictional) experiences like having insufficient film stock, and the cast going on a strike on the set. It plays like a mini short film in itself, and while it's a semi-hilarious documentation of actual events between the cast/crew from both sides of the causeway in this Malaysian-Singaporean joint production, it sure looked convincingly real.

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