KING OF HAWKERS (�贩之王) (2024)

Genre: Drama/Comedy
Director: Kelvin Sng
Cast: Dawn Yeoh, Ryan Lian, Hugo Ng, Liu Ling Ling, Collin Chee, Mimi Chu, Asher Su, Gini Chang, Kimson Tan, Anita Chui, Moses Cheng, Das
Runtime: 1 hr 59 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Sexual References)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 22 February 2024

Synopsis: Nala is a newly divorced ex-wife of a second generation rich playboy, who learns to restart her life by returning to her humble beginnings at the hawker centre she grew up in: her family-run Bak Chor Mee stall. When the government decides to relocate all hawkers from the hawker centre to a newly set-up location, many, including Nala, are apprehensive. The situation is made worse when a multinational company organises the “King of Hawkers” competition, pitching their top chef against the hawkers to see who can come up with the best-tasting hawker cuisine, all in an attempt to ultimately buy over their recipes and businesses. Will Nala and her fellow hawkers emerge winners to retain their legacy? Or will their legacy take another form beyond what they perceive?

Movie Review:

Singapore’s hawker culture is something that we as locals are proud of. It is a vibrant and integral part of our culinary landscape, and walking into a hawker centre (note: not an air conditioned food court) will have you realise how much it reflects our diverse heritage and multicultural society. You may feel it’s a caricature, but this movie’s decision to put beloved dishes like the chilli crab, bak chor mee, satay, roti prata, bak kut teh and chicken rice in the spotlight is really the most straightforward and authentic way to show our shared love for good food.

With countless close up shots of the wide variety of dishes and flavours you can find in a hawker centre, it is almost guaranteed that you will get a positive reaction from audiences (this writer started craving for bak chor mee half an hour into the movie), so the next element the filmmakers need is a story. In this movie directed by local filmmaker Kelvin Sng (Taxi! Taxi!, The Fortune Handbook), the protagonist is Nala (Dawn Yeoh), a Singaporean woman who has been living in Hong Kong for many years. She finds out that her husband (Collin Chee) is having an affair, and decides to returns to Singapore with her daughter (Gini Chang). Back home, she finds herself in a quest to revive her mother’s (Liu Ling Ling) bak chor mee stall.

Of course, things wouldn’t be so simple. Nala meets many other characters in the hawker centre, including the owner of a chilli crab stall Ah Lau (Hugo Ng), who runs the business with his son (Asher Su) and grandson (Kimson Tan). There are other stall owners selling our favourite hawker food, and also Ah Dong (Ryan Lian), who has been tending to the bak chor mee stall since Nala’s mother was diagnosed with dementia. Drama ensues when a Hong Kong chef Gao Teng (Moses Cheng) shows up and challenges the hawkers to a cooking competition, and if our humble heroes lose the battle, the hawker centre will be bought over by a conglomerate.

While the story is what you’d expect from a TV series, the 119 minute movie manages to keep the pace going and have you rooting for the good guys right till the end. This isn’t the most original movie you’ve seen, with a number of over the top and melodramatic scenes that many local mainstream productions seem to be fond of. With scenes shot on location at Sims Vista Market & Food Centre, the sights and sounds of the movie are pleasantly familiar. The strongest performance comes from Ng as he goes about hurling abuses at his son and trying to preserve the integrity of his family owned stall. Yeoh is aptly cast as a young mother who is determined to save her mother’s stall, and in turn regain her trust.

The movie was probably made to coincide with the Lunar New Year season (we aren’t sure why it was only released towards the end of the 15 day celebration though), and you can expect a happy ending. At this juncture, you are reminded again that Singapore is multicultural society, with a festive celebration sequence backed up by rhythmic music performed by various ethnic instruments.

Movie Rating:

(Our shared love for hawker food comes through in this movie about the significance of Singapore's hawker culture)

Review by John Li

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