Saturday, November 25, 2006

[Cine.SG] Medium Rare

I remembered watching this in the cinemas when it first came out. Actually it turned out to be one of those family cinema outings, and the decision to watch this was my Dad's. I tell you after this dud, he's just about sworn off watching any local productions, even up until today.

If anything good has resulted in this expensive S$2 million flop, then it is the lesson learnt in how not to make a movie. Looking at the cost, I'm not too sure where all the money went, given that local movies today, of better quality, don't cost that much. It has all the right ingredients inside that points to a flop, starting with the pandering to the caucasians in offering them lead roles. Back in those days, "foreign talent" meant so long as not asian, they're a shoo in as "stars", even though almost everyone here have not heard of them before.

First, the director Arthur Smith, whose directing skills are as generic as his name. With probably no film credits to his name, he's suddenly the man suited to helm the movie. The lead roles of Daniel Lee the Asian medium and Beverly Watson the photo-journalist, went to Dore Kraus and Jamie Marshall respective. Dore who? Precisely. His only claim to fame is the Australian remake of the Ultraman television series, where he's the human alter-ego of that legendary Japanese hero. I've watched that series when it aired here, and it was bad. Jamie Marshall probably was a nobody then, and probably is a nobody now, no thanks to this turkey.

Notable local input to the movie are actors who were unrecognizable those days, and relegated to support roles. Like Beatrice Chia as a mad woman possessed, Neo Swee Lin as a nurse receptionist, and even cameo king Lim Poh Huat is spotted in a non-speaking by-stander role. Margaret Chan, a food critic, employs her skills together with Rani Moorthy (who again?) to come up with a script that's based loosely on the notorious child serial killer Adrian Lim (I'll come to that later), and naturally, wrote in roles for themselves, and for Margaret Chan's daughter Clara. Real life mother and daughter get to play siblings here, and their chemistry onscreen is just so wrong.

The characters are so cardboard and hollow, and are made worse by wooden acting throughout. At some points the facial expressions seem to take a life of their own, with so much of exaggerated lip movements, stares and eyebrow twitches, it feels like a bad wayang. The lines of dialogue are horrible, and poor speech delivery made it all so cringeworthy. It's no wonder that none of the actors, or the scriptwriters, got offers again. Their amateurism shone right through.

Perhaps it's because of the lack of courage, that this film, about killings, steered clear of reasonable violence, leaving what you have a laughable effort. You have the drinking of blood out of vials, a seduction scene where a razor is used to cut a boob so that the medium can suck it, but the cameraman, so focused on the boob, failed to pan the camera upwards so that the fake action of cutting the breast would be unseen - this scene is so bad you just got to see it to believe. Wanting to infuse some sex into the plot, became actors embracing and falling down out of the camera view. Such is how bad the production is, and is indeed very mind boggling.

It also probably started the trend that if it's a Singapore film, you must have a shot of that Singapore riverfront skyline, and the mix of different ethnic costumes worn by characters. I do appreciate the former though, as it shows to a new generation of locals how the now famed skyline actually looked like in those days, with its sparseness, and the UOB skyscraper under construction. Shots done today of the same will be eclipsed once the Integrated Resort and Marina Bay city centre are up, and it serves as a good snapshot of a developing skyline.

And what of the plot you say? I think looking back in hindsight, saying that it's loosely based on Adrian Lim's cult killings of two children, is wrong. Besides the medium occupation, sex and his mistresses, there isn't any inkling of remote resemblance to actual incidents. And I'm not sure if anyone local would want to make a movie out of him anyway. The movie's also peppered with so much hokey spirituality that come alive, as audiences will probably groan in pain each time some fortune cookie inspired lines come spewing out.

Those involve in the editing too are plain lazy, as scenes feel disjointed, and looked more like individual short films spliced together with plenty of product placement and balls carrying. Someone ought to have said this is not a bloody advertisement for Pan Pacific Hotel, even though they are one of the sponsors. You have lingering shots of the building, given a full tour of the facilities from the suite to the gym to the pool to the restaurant to how friendly the reception staff are at their counter. God, give me a break! It's a movie, not some corporate in house video!

But truly, you have to admire the courage of those involved in the movie, as they try to entertain with many scenes so unintentionally funny. I'm not sure what ran through their minds, and some form of sanity check is required if they truly believe they're not making a comedy. Bad directing, script, acting, soundtrack, editing, the list goes on, and if the Razzies would be applicable here, this movie will own them all.

Only for serious film buffs wanting a piece of local cinematic history.

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