Review: KEPONG GANGSTER (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Review: KEPONG GANGSTER (2012)


When I first saw the trailer of KEPONG GANGSTER a few months back, my initial hope for this locally-made production was relatively low. Throughout the trailer, I can't help myself wondering that the filmmakers behind KEPONG GANGSTER is trying to ape the evergreen success of Andrew Lau's YOUNG AND DANGEROUS series or they wanted to come up a Chinese version of the hugely-successful KL GANGSTER (2011). Either way, I was pleasantly surprised that KEPONG GANGSTER turns out to be a worthwhile genre picture. While the movie is full of cliches with a stereotypical plot you can smell a mile away, veteran music video director-turned-first-time feature filmmaker Teng Bee does a considerable job making a formulaic gangster movie somewhat effective, yet entertaining enough for the (local) mainstream audiences.

The movie follows five high-school students, Hoi (Melvin Sia), Zhong (Henley Hii), Teo Chew Boy (Hero Tai), Billy (Billy Ng) and Bing (Rayz Lim), who are all best buddies in Kepong. At school, they are constantly being bullied by a bunch of belligerent youngsters. One day, they have enough and decide to join a gangster triad to protect themselves. After finally showing their guts to beat the crap out of the bullies, their eventual leader, Thong (Jovi Theng) admires their courage and decide to take them as one of his men. In a short time of period, five of them are promoted to higher position within the gang after they have successfully killed an African enemy named Uuka (Sirweathson Henry Chukwudi). Since then, they become the most famous gangsters in Kepong and subsequently impresses their big boss, Fo San (Lenny Ooi). But as they delve deeper into the gangster world, they find themselves ruined with hunger for more power, greediness, drug issues and of course, betrayal.

Production over the making of KEPONG GANGSTER had undergone a series of setbacks. The movie was nearly shut down due to disagreement over the negative portrayal of Kepong by the local representatives. Still I'm glad the movie managed to make its way to local theaters. 

As mentioned earlier, KEPONG GANGSTER is a cliched-ridden gangster movie that we have seen countless times before. The plot is predictable from start till the end, while Teng Bee's direction is strictly by-the-numbers. His influence as a music video director is evident in his first feature movie. Most of the scenes are framed as if he's making a music video (e.g. slow-motion, musical montage). Still, his evergreen theme of brotherhood as well as controversial elements that often deemed as taboo in the strict guideline of Malaysian movie industry, are effectively portrayed here. It's a bit shame that the subplot (especially the one involving romance) is depicted in a TV-level melodrama, while some of the attempted comic reliefs are forceful. Then there's some cringeworthy dialogues, which could have been omitted (e.g. "One Kepong. One Jinjang" -- really?). The action, in the meantime, are lackluster and disappointingly cut-rate.

Acting are adequate at best. Melvin Sia gives a top-notch performance as the power-hungry Hoi. Not bad for an actor who is rarely known for portraying bad-guy role. Three newcomers: Hero Tai, Billy Ng and Rayz Lim, played their respective roles effectively. However, singer Henley Hii looks unconvincing as the so-called "fearless" gangster who dares to get his hands dirty by killing people. Perhaps his baby-faced look is a turn-off to portray such vicious role. Other than that, he does proves his worth when comes to dramatic scenes as a thoughtful and caring friend.

KEPONG GANGSTER may have been suffered from several hiccups, but as far as a local production goes, it's certainly good enough especially for first-timer like Teng Bee. And hopefully with better experience in the future, he has a high chance to emerge as one of the brightest new filmmakers in the Malaysian movie industry.

No comments: