Director: Ken Ng Lai Huat
Cast: Zheng Ge Ping, Vincent Ng, Fattah Amin, Dato Rosyam Nor, Tien Hsin, Zhu Hou Ren, Henley Hii, Jack Neo, Pablo Amirul
Runtime: 1 hr 30 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence & Some Disturbing Scenes)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 3 November 2022
Synopsis: The story starts with a Malaysian police detective – Chia Zhong Yi. In his desperate search for his daughter Hazel who was being kidnapped by child traffickers. He unintentionally caused grievous hurt to a male suspect in a moment of rashness. As a consequence of his actions, he was convicted and sentenced to 3 years in prison. Nevertheless, he never gave up hope in finding his daughter. Exploiting his status as an ex-convict, he infiltrated the crime syndicate and befriended a human trafficker Ghost, to find out about his daughter’s whereabouts. On the other side of the fence, we have Vincent Yong who was part of the Singapore Police Force - Star Team. He leads a successful raid against Four Faced Buddha, but was unable to apprehend him and his son. Meanwhile, in order to gather a large quantity of human organs for trafficking, Four Faced Buddha instructed his son, a dangerous hacker who goes by the name of Saviour, to steal the medical records from all the major hospitals in the regions. To escape from detection by the Interpol, Savior has remained hidden overseas, and it wasn’t until 3 years later that he was caught by the Malaysia Police Inspector Aron. Vincent was being ordered to extradite Savior back to Singapore and to persuade him to turn as a key prosecuting witness against Four Faced Buddha. At the same time, Ghost has been ordered by his boss Four Faced Buddha to rescue his son Savior during the extradition process. The loyalties of these few men are being severely tested. In an intense gun fight, Ghost was killed by Zhong Yi and his identity came under the suspicion of Vincent, creating conflicts between the two of them. In a wicked twist of fate, Vincent also accidentally discovers that his former Star Team instructor Jusuf whom he deeply respects has broken the law, and exploited the sting operation as a decoy to steal a smuggled heart to save his very own sick daughter.
Deleted has a noble cause at its heart. In support of the United Nations World Day Against Trafficking In Persons (30 July), the film has planted the theme of child trafficking at the centre of its story. To further establish their commitment, the filmmakers have even worked with Malaysia’s MAPO - National Council of Anti-Trafficking and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants, as well as nine other NGOs.
That said, does the movie work, either as an advocate piece or stirring entertainment? Not quite.
Billed to be an action piece, Deleted follows Malaysian police detective Chia Zhong Yi (Zheng Geping) as he attempts to find his kidnapped daughter, Hazel. Faced with a network of child traffickers, he eventually finds his way to the potential culprits - a man nicknamed Four- faced Buddha, and his two sons. At the same time, Vincent Yong (Vincent Ng) is leading a team from Singapore to apprehend this trio, and eventually crosses paths with Zhong Yi. The two then try to work together to bring an end to the insidious operations.
If there is a dupe for Taken, this is it. There’s no getting around the fact that Deleted is the poorer cousin by miles, with a cliche storyline that offers little beyond an aspiration. And while other titles had factors lifting up the movie, there’s very little in Deleted to make it anymore than a straight-to-video piece.
There are two main reasons for Deleted’s downfall - the writing and the editing. With the opening scene, the film’s fate was sealed. It features a group of Interpol officers announcing child trafficking figures to each other, over a table with holographic screens illustrating their reports. It’s exposition at its worst - like a preachy propaganda piece - of which the writers have a tendency to repeat excessively in the film.
The conversations between the characters become incredibly stilted because of this. Often they don’t converse like people but reveal information that nobody had asked. Then at other times, not enough is revealed. I remember a scene where Vincent - gratuitously topless at the beach - was remembering a childhood scene of him playing with two friends when his retired instructor (Datuk Rosyam Nor) approached him, telling him to move on from the past. What this past was or who those two kids are… were never revealed.
In probably one of the worst examples (spoiler ahead), Hazel was prepped to be Zhong Yi’s motivation for his rampage. And while her progress after being kidnapped was there in the first half an hour - including seeing one of the sons, Saviour, telling his lackey to take her aside from the rest because she’s special - she never gets mentioned again until the end when her fate is revealed. Why did Saviour keep her aside? We’ll never know.
This naturally affects our characters, of which Geping’s Zhongyi has it the worst. His father character is incredibly unlikeable because there’s no nuance in his rage - making him out to be more psychotic than intense, and rather senseless in his actions. The most laughable has to be his plan in locating his daughter again - of which there is none. He just chases after leads and kills them, and then gets angry at everyone else before storming off to act out his remorse (in classic angsty ways like banging his head against a wall). When he finally gets close to the top honchos by becoming an informant, he abandons this role barely into the first mission. I just don’t understand this guy.
Much better are the other characters, though not by that much (again no thanks to the writing). Vincent probably comes off the most unscathed, not only because he shows facets to his officer role but also being incredibly believable in the action sequences. In truth, it’s good to see him back because his moves are really quite incredible to watch, and in this film, it helps to keep some of the thrills going.
The rest pale in comparison, even with Geping’s segments. The choreography can be clearly seen in the way the actors connect, which takes believability straight out of the window. Much of this is also due to the shoddy editing - clearly just alternating between shots from a traditional 3-camera setup, making the pacing and visuals terribly disconnected. It brings to mind the saying: If you can’t convince them, confuse them.
The film does come up for air at times, but for the most parts, this production lacks seasoned hands.
(Even with its noble intentions, this title cannot aspire to be anything more than a straight-to- video production with its patchy work)
Review by Morgan Awyong