Saturday, January 5, 2013

Prince of the City [2012]

Director: Roslan Hussin
Starring: Julian Cheah, Jehan Miskin, Michael Madsen, Aaron Aziz, Wan Hanafi Su, Tara Wallace
Genre: Drama (?)/Action (?)/Thriller (?)
Rating: General
Comment: "A crash course in how not to make a feature film..."

The reality of Prince Amara (Julian Cheah) is about to change forever when his adopted father's business empire is entrusted upon him. Putra Sibuyan (Jehan Miskin), the biological son of Jaggoi Sibuyan (Wan Hanafi Su) decides to give up the throne in favour of a more carefree life. Jaggoi have hopes that under Amara's leadership, the company will eventually break their ties with the underworld. But after receiving a vague threat that didn't make any sense, Putra Sibuyan becomes a different character entirely and takes over the company. Now without a family or fortune, Prince Amara stoically and expressionlessly vows to retake what was never rightfully his to begin with.

What to Expect
1. Julian Cheah giving Kristen Stewart a run for her money
2. A lead actress who thinks that she's actually in a porn flick
3. Unintentionally funny moments
4. Claustrophobia-inducing camerawork
5. The look, feel and pace of a bad soap opera
6. Scenes with Michael Madsen being the only highlights

What NOT to Expect
1. To root for the protagonist
2. A properly-budgeted movie
However, it's also important to note that it was so bad, it's good
Quick, list down how many ways can you fuck up a movie? How many items do you have in there? Well, it matters not because whatever you can come up with, Prince of the City beat you to it by miles, and managed to cover them all one by one. So much so, that early on in the movie you'll begin to question yourself if it was for real. To paraphrase from Salmon Fishing in the Yemen [2012], you'll wonder if this is all "part of a lavish practical joke".

"Y'all think you're about to see a movie, weren't you? Ha-ha!" I imagine the cast and crew must have felt the exact same way (save for Julian Cheah).

You gotta give him props for being earnest in what he does, though...
Speaking of Julian Cheah... I wish I had knew then, prior to going into the hall that Cheah is apparently Malaysia's answer to Germany's Uwe Boll and USA's Ed Wood Jr., because that would have certainly helped me acclimatise myself to what I can only call The Julian Cheah Experience (JCE). Basically, what that means is that Prince of the City had the look, the tone, the feel and the pace of a soap opera.

Although I'm pretty sure those who work on soap operas wouldn't find that comparison flattering at all. I bet they'd tell me that I can toss a dead cat around randomly in Colombia, and it would hit a telenovela of a much higher quality than this. Every. Single. Time. Of course, I wouldn't have any idea what does that mean, but I know I'd believe them without a moment's hesitation.

The story incorporated themes like betrayal and vengeance, and Cheah clearly doesn't have the acting chops to pull it off. Instead, you sit through the entire movie watching his character respond to everything that goes on around him with either a smirk, or a pokerface. This is not an exaggeration. If that makes you wonder why did he get to play the leading role, I'm gonna venture a guess that it might have something to do with the fact that he's also the producer.

"Alright alright alright... So it didn't feel like a real movie, and Julian Cheah can't act. So it was bad only from a technical standpoint?"

Nuh-uh. The way the plot progressed was equally cringeworthy. Nobody in the movie felt like a real person, their motives and motivations always unclear. Of course,  it didn't help that nobody (save for Michael Madsen) seemed comfortable delivering with their lines. In fact, the disparity between Madsen and the rest of the cast was so great, it had me convinced that Madsen may have rewritten (or at least rephrased) all of his lines. Not too far-fetched considering that he's an accomplished poet.

It's also possible that it's due to Madsen being the badass that he is, he could be singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and still sound intimidating.

As always, I like to keep things as spoiler-free as possible. But I feel like it's impossible to illustrate how nothing in the movie made sense without citing at least one example. So yeah, here's a little something that won't give away any integral details to the plot, but will give you the general idea of how laughable things got;

So Aaron Aziz and Julian Cheah were stalking a bad guy on the streets of KL, they ended up standing with their backs to the glass wall of a 7-Eleven. A moment of panic ensued when the bad guy started coming their way. Before he walked past them, they didn't even think to enter the 7-Eleven and blend in with the customers there. Granted, it's harder to blend in when you look like Aaron Aziz. Which made it even more dumbfounding when you see what happened next.

If you're expecting this to happen, I'm sorry to disappoint...
All they did was turn around and faced the glass wall. Both of them. At the same time. Standing side by side. With no other attempt to conceal themselves. Picture that. A guy of Aaron Aziz's build, and a not-so-small-in-comparison Julian Cheah standing next to him, both facing the wall like two kindergartners who were told to stand in the corner as punishment. And it wasn't like the bad guy was on the other side of the street. In fact, he was so close, they all could have brushed against each other. Bear in mind that Prince of the City is not a comedy.

Or maybe it is, and I'm the one too dense to realise that.

I'm not sure who to pin this on. I'm sure that despite the claustrophobic camerawork, the crew is pretty good at what they do. Problem is, I think, they didn't have any more money to spend after Michael Madsen and Aaron Aziz were cast. I don't know if that's actually the case, but it certainly showed that they worked on a shoestring budget.

Or a bikini-string budget... *Badum-tish. Laugh track*
The opening sequence looked cheap and unimaginative. The poster looked like it was slapped together in 30 minutes. Each scene were sandwiched between stock footage of various parts of Kuala Lumpur, obviously to pad its length. The editing too seemed like it was done by the same guy who was also hired to make coffee, and stroke Julian Cheah's ego after the director yelled "cut!". The composer? Tone deaf.

I'm still not sure what Cheah wants us to walk away with. Maybe one could argue that Prince of the City is not meant for local audiences only. Well, it certainly tried to be "international". Problem is, the main guy driving the production forward may have never seen anything beyond Seagal or Bronson. And yes, I believe the two wouldn't find the comparison flattering either. Julian Cheah is just in a league of his own.

The Julian Cheah Experience. So bad, it's good. Thank you, sir. May I have another?


Anonymous said...

Damn! I didn't know it sucked that bad. I wonder who will even wanna watch it.

Bry™ said...

I just watched it yesterday. HAHAHAHA! You said it best, 'so bad, its good'. The Julian Cheah Experience is definitely memorable, albeit a shitty one.

Anonymous said...

new US and international trailer.!

Mamü Vies said...

Wow, the new trailer actually looks good. Better than the movie, in fact. Well done whoever pieced that together.

Anonymous said...

Mamu, Why have you not blog about something for quite a long time?

Mamü Vies said...

Aw man, so sorry about that. I'm just caught up in a couple of things. It used to be just me, this blog and my translation jobs. But I've been branching out and now doing about 3-4 things at any given time.

Still learning the art of time management :P

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