Polis Evo 3 (2023) Review

So, how do you follow up with an unexpectedly gritty action-packed thriller of Polis Evo 2 that boldly moved away from the first Polis Evo‘s tried-and-true buddy-cop formula? Well, Syafiq Yusof, who took over Polis Evo 2 directing duo Joel Soh and Andre Chiew, he opted for the best of both worlds. And that is combining the first movie’s action-comedy vibe with the grittiness of the sequel in Polis Evo 3.

The good news is, the first 20 minutes of the third Polis Evo instalment works both ways in meshing these two formulas together: During the elaborate pre-credits sequence, we first met Inspector Khai (Shaheizy Sam) and Inspector Sani (Zizan Razak) going undercover as thugs facing Chao (Michael Ang in a hilarious cameo appearance), the head of the gangster who suspected them as cops trying to infiltrate his organisation. What follows next is an effective combination of situational comedy and frenetic action set pieces, which showcases Syafiq Yusof’s significantly improved and confident handling in both genres. With the help of cinematographer Jordan Chiam and editor Nazim Shah, the action sequences are well-choreographed with better visual clarity that is thankfully devoid of the shaky camerawork seen in Polis Evo 2. From the gunfight in the hallway to the ensuing car chase moment, it looks like it was a step in the right direction.

I really wanted to believe that but what happens over the next 90 minutes is a mixed result. This time, Syafiq Yusof and screenwriters — Kyle Goonting, Joel Soh, Abhilash Chandra, Bernice Low and Anwari Asraf — chose to scale down from the second movie’s terrorist plot in favour of a more “this time, it’s personal” angle. That angle in question revolved around Reza (Sharnaaz Ahmad), a former police officer who used to partner with Khai in the past before a certain botched operation has him go rogue under a forced circumstance.

Khai, who thought he’s already died a long time ago, finds himself facing Reza again after the latter was recently responsible for bombing innocent civilians and a police officer in Penang. The explosion in Penang prompted ACP Farouk (Fauzi Nawawi) to set up a special task force that includes Khai and Sani as well as IT expert Dell (Douglas Lim), markswoman Julie (Farali Khan) and EOD specialist Dani (Syafiq Kyle) to infiltrate a criminal organisation to recover a set of burner phones. Apparently, one of the phones would lead them to the whereabouts of Reza, who in turn, has an elaborate agenda of his own. Among them includes targeting Khai and Sani and their respective loved ones.

The story is nothing that you have never seen before, particularly if you are familiar with this type of action movie. I don’t mind familiarity as long as the story is gripping enough to keep me intrigued throughout the movie. Don’t get me wrong — I love the concept of Khai facing his biggest fear in his profession working as a police officer and the introduction of the vengeful ex-cop-turned-wanted criminal Reza looks as if the Polis Evo franchise gives us a memorable antagonist. Sharnaaz Ahmad may look the part playing the sociopathic criminal whose singular goal is to exact revenge against those who wronged him in the first place But he tends to overact in some scenes, resulting in him trying too hard to make an impression as Reza.

Sharnaaz Ahmad plays Reza in "Polis Evo 3" (2023)

The recurring cast including Shaheizy Sam and Zizan Razak continues to prove their on-screen chemistry as two mismatched cops turned best buddies with different personalities as a major contributing factor in the Polis Evo franchise. Nora Danish, who previously didn’t appear in the sequel, reprised her role as Sani’s sister Anis but personally, I would like to see Raline Shah from Polis Evo 2 again, who brings solid support as the tough Indonesian undercover cop Rian. Her no-nonsense personality proves to be a perfect foil for Shaheizy Sam’s loose-cannon cop role as Khai.

Raline Shah’s absence in Polis Evo 3 is sorely missed, even though it was understandable why Syafiq Yusof and his screenwriters decided to bring back Nora Danish as Anis, given her earlier romantic involvement with Khai since the first movie. Besides, the familiar old adage of opposites attract between Anis’ mild-mannered personality and Khai’s short-tempered behaviour often works better for the (masses) as a mainstream-friendly formula in depicting an on-screen romantic relationship.

Polis Evo 3 also introduces four new characters played by Douglas Lim, Syafiq Kyle, Farali Khan and Fauzi Nawawi — all of which deliver decent supporting turns in their respective law enforcement roles as part of the team members with Khai and Sani.

Back to the story and as mentioned earlier, Syafiq Yusof’s mix of action and comedy is best seen during the extended opening prologue. The subsequent comedy elements — most of which revolved around the subplots of Khai and Sani’s personal lives — tend to borderline into either cringeworthy or awkwardly misplaced moments. As much as I enjoyed the thrilling action choreography in Polis Evo 3, I can’t help but feel the otherwise spectacular daylight car chase-and-shootout scene is hampered by the creative decision of shooting it on — yet another — curiously empty highway — a typical disadvantage often plagued in many action movies from Skop Productions.

There’s another scene shot at the busy hub of the Bukit Bintang area and what could have been a golden opportunity to stage the biggest action set piece yet in the Polis Evo franchise, Syafiq Yusof somehow botched that potential. Let’s just say the whole scene feels rather underwhelming.

So much for the long, five-year wait after the better-than-expected Polis Evo 2 in 2018. No doubt there’s a high chance for Syafiq Yusof to strike the right balance in combining the formulas from the first and second movies and give us the best Polis Evo movie in the trilogy. Too bad that didn’t happen and frankly, even judging solely from the action-comedy angle, Ghaz Abu Bakar did a better job in the first Polis Evo.