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Perth
cast: Lim Kay Tong, Liu Qui Lian, Ivy Cheng, Victory Selvan, and Sunny Pang

director: Djinn

107 minutes (18) 2004
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Tartan Asia Extreme DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 0/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
Some reviewers write in a set tone across the slate. They will tell you a film is good or bad and pin it with a rating but it might only be with accompanying stills a true flavour of the movie is given. With ten films a week released theatrically in the UK the national press can only grant a couple of those films with full reviews. When possible I try and convey some the spirit and feel of a film with a review that is a tonal match, be it simplistic, vulgar, erratic, mysterious, lyrical, comical or abrupt, I will attempt to reproduce the mentality or standard. If a review shocks, the film will, if the review makes you smile the film should. If I was to do it with Djinn's Perth I would have to leave you scratching your head over some random thoughts, leave it in first draft and issue a threat of death to the editor if he touches it. I mention this because I have no intention of proliferating the review with unnecessary cussing, drunken babble the written equivalent of longueurs between each paragraph.

Eight years ago, Cyclo was released in the UK. Described as the Taxi Driver of the east, it was beautifully shot but impossibly slow and dull. From Singapore now comes Perth also climbing ill fittingly into the Taxi Driver template. The result here is far worse. Perth offers nothing new. The acting is terrible, made all the worse by the clunking dialogue. I assume it came cheap to Tartan and simply fit the bill for Asian Extreme. This is a vulgar copy of the Scorsese original. Lim Kay Tong plays Harry Lee, a security guard and a drunk who is laid off and instead takes up work as a taxi driver, and he dreams of escaping to Perth, where many Singaporean economic migrants tend to berth.

The taxi driving must be making him more readies than the old security job there is not surprise enough shown to mention it. The new earnings could provide the springboard by which he imagines he can leave Singapore. He needs more, and some extra-curricular work for some ugly gangsters should help. The hoods import Cambodian and Vietnamese girls who are contracted 'willingly' into prostitution. Harry Lee is divorced from his wife (Liu Qui Lian), having beaten her up severely (we see all 57 punches in flashback) when her gambling causes him to crack. A Vietnamese prostitute, Mai (Ivy Cheng), who bears some resemblance to his wife (for once not the same actress) becomes his 'Jodie Foster'.

The money he has coming from the gangsters is promised to the girl in order to allow her to break free of this nasty life and return to her family. The agreement is not honoured, the friend and go-between with the instructions, AB Lee (Sunny Pang), too scared to pitch the idea to the very imaginatively named Big Boss ('Monster Man' Ong Chuen Boon). AB keeps the money to himself expecting Harry Lee to, by now, be sitting n the departure lounge of the airport. Harry Lee and his number one Indian mucker Selveraja (Victory Selvan) alight upon the brothel. There, an incensed and disregarded Harry Lee flips and goes on a bloody rampage.

It is director Djinn's first film and if he was to grant me three wishes it would involve every DVD copy cracking, every print burning, and Tartan going under for insulting us with this film release. Is there really nothing better out there that Tartan could be delivering to us? What great innovation has been explored in this film? Does Tartan intend to argue that the film means to address issues around the Pranakan dialect, a confusion of idioms following Chinese constraints on the Malaysian language post mainland reconstitution in 1998 (a recent event if the driving licence validity to November 2000 is to be noted).

Harry Lee is a violent idiot and the rest of the cast is as sleazy, stupid or thuggish. The credits honour a mention for everyone who appears on screen from clubber to wedding guest, and is also a little tell tale as to the immaturity of the filmmaker. Characters listed include 'cheap slut', 'vomiting boy', 'dead prostitute', 'vibrator girl', 'pervert neighbour', 'tubercolectic whore' and 'rich young wanker'. The dialogue is stilted and so is the delivery. The effect is not unlike having your ears clopped in synch by house bricks on every word. The occasional voice over narration would normally infer something retrospective but he dies at the end of the film. Spoilers are unnecessary here, I am advising, no, instructing, no, ordering everyone not to see the film. Honour my act of sacrifice! Let them waste only my time.

In the narration Harry Lee bills himself as a security supervisor at the shipyard, then proceeds to explain what this entails. Apparently it involves supervising security... at the dockyard. This could be read as ironic, that the character is slowly drowning in the tedium that is his life but the movie as a whole and the immediately surrounding dialogue will settle it for you that this is purely scripted ineptitude. The cinematography is fair, but the sound has a few problems with some early scenes struck by a tinnitus and volume jumps. Lim Tay Tong could be a local star, has a look of several movie hard-men, the ticks of Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro, the haughty glare of a Jack Palance and a casual resemblance to Lee Van Cleef. However, he has the acting ability of a William Shatner. His tirade at the wedding reception is highly embarrassing as he shouts at his son, "You are my son; you came from my sperm and the egg of your mother." Yes, thanks for the biology lessons, Djinn. This could all sound appealing to some who might rush to it looking for a laugh riot of a turkey but no, this is a dirty and drab film which at 107 minutes length simply refuses to just fuck off.

DVD extras would sometimes show us the more fascinating side to a bad film, the intriguing times behind the scenes. There are commentaries from Djinn and Lim Tay Tong that I have barely explored. Deleted scenes include further commentary from Tong. "You are probably wondering how..." No, I wasn't. The set design featurette only informs us how the director wasted a huge chunk of the budget on a street sequence that is now in the deleted scenes.
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