Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chow Kit [2012]

Director: Rosihan Zain & Brando Lee
Starring: Muhamad Izzam Izzudin, Muhamad Izzam Syafiq, Muzhaffar Shah Shahrul Asran, Nur Nadzirah Rosi, Mers Sia, Beto Kusyairy, Dira Abu Zahar, Lana Nordin, Yasmin Hani, Namron
Genre: Drama
Rating: 18+
Excerpt: "The further away you live from 'the streets', the less believable it becomes..."

Two loosely-connected stories in one movie, the first half tells the tale of a group of children living on the streets of Chow Kit. Brought up by prostitutes and drug addicts, these children do what they can to make sense of their lives. But when a sexual predator threatens the dynamics of their friendship, they must cast aside their personal hardship and band together to protect what little they have. Meanwhile, an ex-convict looking to start anew gets roped into doing one last errand for his former gang, in exchange for his savings. But he's about to learn that getting out of gangster's paradise is easier said than done.

What to Expect
1. Questionable motives (but then again I'm not from the streets)
2. A bit of a culture shock
3. Some memorable quotes
4. Limitations that come from working with child actors
5. Hauntingly beautiful soundtrack

What NOT to Expect
1. Comfortable to watch
2. The Kisah Benar route
3. As tightly-written as the likes of Songlap [2011]
It has its drawbacks, but still one of the best local movies you'll see this year
A problem with making a movie like Chow Kit, I foresee people not being able to look past the sexual content. Or rather, their plain refusal to put it into context. For once, I'm thankful that authorities greenlighted the movie, and let the production team get away with it. It was some members in the audience that I was a little pissed off at; Some guys behind me whistled and catcalled, watching a movie about poverty, prostitution and gangsterism. What was so sexy about that, I don't know.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no prude.

I like boobs as much as the next heterosexual male. But I'll give you an example how I wouldn't call that a major selling point of this movie. Early in the movie, there was a scene with two "off-duty" hookers conversing. A close up of cleavage was shown (yeah, she was pretty well-endowed) complete with beads of sweat trickling down her chest. It was hot in every sense of the word. But it was not shown for the heck of it.

What's more worthy of note was what came after it; The other hooker character noticed her pubescent son staring at it, and chastised her friend for not covering up when he's around. To which the friend nonchalantly replied, "Kau ingat kita tinggal kat mana? (Where do you think we are?)". It may seem like a throwaway scene, shot for giggles. But it was pretty crucial in setting up what was to come. It was at this point when I started to feel bad for the children in the movie.

They were the real victims, who paid the price for bad decisions made by those before them.

Now, it wasn't a tearjerker nor did it try to be. It was similar in theme and tone to 2011's modern day classic Songlap, so one can't help but draw comparisons between the two. Bear one thing in mind, though. Songlap benefited from a much tightly-written script due to its focus on telling a particular story, whereas Chow Kit took snapshots of what happens on the streets and served it to the audience in movie form.

So much that it gets a little hard to watch at times. Indeed, while you might find Songlap to have a better story, you'll admire Chow Kit too because they spared no expense in pushing the envelope where they can (and for setting the record straight; There's nothing romantic about rape). Needless to say, it ended up being pretty graphic. I won't give away anything here, but there was one scene that made me cringe all the way through.

All of this made it easy to overlook its few drawbacks.

Now, this isn't that big of a deal, just something I thought I'd mention in passing. As a customer, I have to say that the delivery of lines from the child actors can leave a lot to be desired at times. However, it was only for a couple of scenes and it wasn't detrimental to the movie as a whole. Besides, one of them cried on-screen, something plenty of people calling themselves "actors" & "actresses" can't do.

Overall, Chow Kit was a movie well done. It made a statement, the messages got across well, and get this; The further away you live from "the streets", the less believable it becomes. That's the magic of the movie. Makes you think, huh?

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