Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Songlap [2011]

Director: Effendee Mazlan & Fariza Azlina Isahak
Cast: Shaheizy Sam, Syafie Naswip, Sara Ali
Genre: Drama
Rating: General
Excerpt: "In my mind, it deserves to be to us Malaysians what Goodfellas [1990] is to Americans; Nothing short of a classic..."

Am (Shaheizy Sam) and Ad (Syafie Naswip) are two brothers who work in the kind of syndicate the rest of the country would love to pretend doesn't exist; Selling babies to married couples who couldn't conceive. The older of the two, Am sees it as nothing more than a job, an opportunity to make ends meet as well as to support his gambling habits. Meanwhile, Ad has high hopes that someday life will give him a break, a chance for him to get out of this life forever. What they're both unaware of is that there's a chain of events waiting just around the corner that will test their relationship to the breaking point.

What to Expect
1. Gritty look at the underbelly of Malaysia
2. A story about life in every sense of the word
3. Armrest-gripping moments
4. Rich characters
5. The pacing will keep you hooked
6. Atmospheric soundtrack

What NOT to Expect
1. One-dimensional gangsters
2. A light movie

Okay, so maybe Goodfellas isn't the best example, and it is possible that I'm being much too generous here with the rating. But I gotta tell you, I'm not one to look for a flaw just for the sake of... Well, finding a flaw. Three hours after walking out of the cinema to sitting in front of my desktop writing this review, nothing comes to mind about what could have been improved on because there really isn't anything.

Unless of course, you belong in the same group of people upon whom subtleties can easily get lost. You know, the kind of people who wouldn't know if the character is sad unless she's wailing to the top of her lungs. Who wouldn't know if a character is a gangster unless he sports tribal tattoos, and talks like a retired drill sergeant with throat cancer. And a Cantonese accent to boot.

Yeah, I just took another shot at KL Gangster. Because I'm an asshole.

One thing about it that I found to be so fascinating was the subject matter. Sure, plenty of other local films have attempted to do that whole gritty look at life on our streets. Anak Halal [2007] was a decent example of a mainstream movie trying to steer clear away from the whole 'damsel in misery' theme (because 'distress' just doesn't cut it. That was a shot against Ombak Rindu, in case you couldn't tell) even though I find it to be ultimately forgettable.

With Songlap, however, I felt like it raised the bar for me. The story is simple enough, but you wouldn't know that going into the movie because if you've seen the past work of writer-directors Effendee Mazlan and Fariza Azlina Isahak, then you'd know they're not one to spoon-feed you anything. Therefore I shall do the same and not spoil anything for you. All that I'll have you know is that the script was tightly written, letting you in on what's going on little by little and you'll have a good time inferring what's going on.

Also worthy of note is the performances of the lead actors. Even though Shaheizy Sam is fast becoming one of the actors I'll always be on a lookout for, I found that it's really Syafie Naswip who brought much of the emotion for us to invest in. But still, that is not to say the film tricked us in any way at all to root for the 'right' character, because the conflicts and tension between the characters felt real and justified, it's almost impossible to say which one of them was right and who's wrong.

There's a lesson to be learned too. The movie could have just come out and have a character flatly say that we should never take a person at face value or judge them using our own set of moral values. But that would have been a ham-handed way of doing it, so needless to say nobody in the movie did that. Instead, Songlap opted to make us ask questions like "What the hell is wrong with this guy?!" or "Dude, why are you doing all this?", and by the end of the movie you'd go "I see..."

It effectively reminded us that there's always a story behind every action, and to not to be so quick to judge. If there's one thing to take away from this movie, let that be it.

Also, it provided room for debate, and that for me, is the mark of a successful storytelling.

Underworld activities and organised crime aside, it's fairly apparent that Songlap set out to do a movie about life without taking the Kisah Benar route, instead opting to capture flavours of life ranging from happiness, sadness, laughter and conflicts. So once you're done with watching the movie, take a step back and have a second look at the bigger picture. I have a feeling that there's something in it anyone from all walks of life can relate to.


PerangFilem said...

wow full meter!!

Az said...

Actually, I have high hope for this movie. The trailer looks promising and the plot is interesting. Will be the second Malay film I watch in cinema!

Mamü Miguel Ellezda Vies said...

But of course, it's a bit of a hit and miss. I loved it, but I can't guarantee you will too.

Oh hey, somebody ticked the "offensive" box. LOL!

LLatipi said...

Spot on!

Syafiq said...

nice.u really speak my mind here.exactly what im thinking about the movie.

♛ LORD ZARA 札拉 ♛ said...

Ok, I should watch this as well.

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