Sunday, July 15, 2012

8 Jam [2012]

Director: Ahmad Idham
Starring: Shaheizy Sam, Yana Samsudin, Eizlan Yusof, Lydiawati
Genre: Drama/Action (or is it Action/Drama?)
Rating: Teen
Comment: "A movie that's undecided on what it wants to be..."

Raised on the streets, life has never been easy for Alang (Shaheizy Sam), who ultimately finds himself heading for the gallows. In the last eight hours of his life, he recounts significant events in his life to the only person who would lend him a sympathetic ear, prison officer Akhiruddin (Eizlan Yusof).

What to Expect
1. Impressive action sequences
2. Balance issues
3. Unintentionally funny moments
4. Good acting
5. Annoying film score

What NOT to Expect
1. A courtroom drama
2. Much intellect
If you have nothing better to see
Okay, this is tough. I'm just gonna come out and say that I was downright disappointed by this movie, although I'm not sure what to attribute this to. It's true that I've been looking forward to seeing 8 Jam, but I was under the impression that it was going to be a different movie altogether, and I daresay the fault is not entirely mine.

Just in case you decided not to click on that link, there is one paragraph that said 8 Jam is about "a young man who needs to prove his innocence in eight hours". Now, was it ridiculous of me to expect something that's in the vein of a courtroom drama, or a cat-and-mouse game between the said inmate and a lawyer/detective inside an interrogation room? In other words, something intellectually stimulating with some cool action sequences thrown in.

Well. Okay... Yeah, maybe it was ridiculous of me.
Well, it certainly isn't worth the wait. 8 Jam suffers from severe balance issues that would make a tightrope walker feel giddy. But I wasn't upset. Instead, I just felt sorry for it. I get where it's coming from and what it's going for. Indeed, everything worked during the first half of the movie. But things got progressively worse, even unintentionally funny at times, before it derailed off a cliff approximately fifteen minutes before the credits started to roll.

I'll explain.

What made it promising was the non-linear storyline, and in the beginning there was just exchanges between main character Alang and prison officer Akhiruddin (very subtle), with the former behind cell bars. The setup was good, it was dank and claustrophobic. If done right, the scenes between these two could have been the strongest ones in the movie. Remember Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx in Law Abiding Citizen [2009]? Something like that.

But they decided not to go down that route. Don't get me wrong, I am not one to call a movie bad just because it doesn't meet my expectations. Problem with 8 Jam is that they tried to combine the dramatic with Ong-bak-esque action sequences that were so clumsily shoehorned in there. So much so that it got tiring at one point. You might even start asking questions like, "is it necessary to show us a snatch thief and an LRT security guard do some parkour?"

It's almost comical how it all played out. For context, imagine if the penultimate scene in Anakku Sazali [1956] was followed up with an over-the-top Silat fight scene. Another way of putting it would be the action movie equivalent of a Bollywood musical number. You know how all of a sudden people in the background just happen to know the lyrics and dance moves? Kiiinnnddd of like that.

And keep an eye out for this motherfucker. I still can't figure out what's his problem...
Sure, you could argue that it worked for Ong-bak [2003], why couldn't it have worked for 8 Jam? Well here's the thing. Ong-bak was a mindless, straightforward, no-holds-barred action flick that didn't pretend it was anything but that. The genre calls for that kind of a suspension of disbelief. 8 Jam, on the other hand, had scenes of sentimentality that made it feel closer to reality, therefore making the transition between the dramatic and action feel jarring.

Speaking of sentimentality, what's up with the film score? Maybe this is just a matter of personal preference, but it annoyed the hell out of me that there was this overly-intrusive weepy music blasting through the speakers every time things get just a little bit emotional between characters. They might as well have a cue card guy at the corner of the screen, telling us that we're watching a sad scene, so cry goddammit, cry!

Which is too bad, really. And I feel a bit guilty for not giving 8 Jam a more favourable review, because I'd prefer for studios to churn out movies like this instead of Mael Lambong, Momok-apa-lancau and the like. But in the end, I can't shake the notion that there are good things about 8 Jam here and there, but as a whole, it leaves a lot to be desired.

1 comment:

Luke Fon Fabre said...

good review

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