Director: Jack Neo
Cast: Fann Wong, Mark Lee, Richard Low,
Jack Lim, KK Wong, Daniel Tan, Lai Ming, Koh Yet
Runtime: 1 hr 58 mins
Released By: GV/Mediacorp Raintree Pictures/Double
Vision/Scorpio East Pictures
Official Website: http://www.ahlongpteltd.com
Opening Day: 7 February 2008
WITH THE DIRECTOR AND THE CAST OF AH LONG PTE LTD
Ah Long Pte Ltd is a light-hearted black comedy about the
triad world and the money-lending business. Instead of treating
the subject of Ah Longs (money-lenders) seriously, the movie
takes on a humorous and sarcastic treatment. It depicts how
a young lady tries to restructure her money-lending triad
into a professional and ‘loving’ triad that stands
against the use of violence after she takes over from her
triad leader who has retired. Her various restructuring plans
(which are no doubt very creative) bring about hilarious results.
Chen Jun (played by Richard Low) is the leader of Shao He
Triad. The story opens with him deciding to “retire”
from the triad business. Prior to his retirement, he elects
Wang Li Hua (played by Fann Wong), a young but tough girl,
as his successor.
Hua believes that changes need to be made to the current money
lending system. Although Li Hua prioritizes the triad’s
success, she is very much against the idea of using violent
means to collect debts. Therefore, with the help of some professional
consultants, Li Hua and several of her subordinates (played
by KK and Daniel Tan) start adopting a series of creative
tactics to attract money lenders and practice hilarious methods
to pressure the money-lenders to repay in a non-violent way.
However, Li Hua’s plan of “restructuring”
her triad meets with obstacles and opposition from the majority
of the conservative elders in both her own triad and rival
the brighter end of the world, Mr. Fang (played by Mark Lee)
is a kind-hearted dance instructor who is slightly sissy in
character. Fate has it that Mr. Fang runs into Li Hua on numerous
occasions by chance. Since Li Hua’s mother has been
pressuring her to get married, Li Hua decides to force Mr.
Fang to marry her. Surprisingly, Mr. Fang agrees to it, wanting
to prove his masculinity. Though finding it hard to accept
the fact that Li Hua is a triad head, Mr. Fang approves of
her effort to minimize the use of violence. Subsequently,
he offers to help Li Hua out by introducing creative ways
to reduce violent methods of debt collection.
The last thing I need on an out-of-luck day (bad morning at
work, an unsuccessful attempt to get a lunch date, followed
a terrible fast food dinner – I could continue, but
that warrants another write-up altogether) is a frustrating
comedy that tries to make you laugh at some really unfunny
antics. And I thought local auteur Jack Neo’s latest
movie could perk up my day, but no, it got me down in the
dumps instead. Shucks.
shot in Malaysia, the Chinese New Year blockbuster tells the
story of how Fann Wong’s Li Hua (what’s with the
uncreative name anyway?) tries to revamp her loan shark triad
into a sensitive new age triad (SNAT – now, that’s
more creative in my own humble opinion) that promotes loving
and caring. You see, this woman has a heart, unlike her ruthless
predecessor (Richard Low). Throw in an effeminate dance instructor
with a heavy Malaysian accent (Mark Lee) as her husband and
you’d get a Chinese New Year blockbuster aimed at milking
ang pow money from viewers in Singapore and across the Causeway.
not get me wrong, because I’m no snob when it comes
to watching movies. While I believe that there is an audience
for every particular genre, there was a time when I truly
enjoyed Neo’s movies. I remember laughing, crying and
most importantly, touched, when I watched I Not Stupid (2002).
I remember being pleasantly surprised when Neo took on nostalgia
and politics in the well-produced Homerun (2003). And I remember
laughing at the silly but funny jokes in last year’s
offering Just Follow Law – it even brought lead actor
Gurmit Singh to Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards ceremony
with a Best Actor nomination beside Lust, Caution’s
Tony Leung and The Detective’s Aaron Kwok.
this suspicious carbon copy of Cho Jin-gyu’s My Wife
Is A Gangster 3 (2006), Neo may have made his most unimpressive
movie yet. The similarities are uncanny, but I will not go
into that. Instead, I was more disturbed to see a scene suspiciously
taken from Stephen Chow’s (an incidental competitor
at this festive season’s movie war) Shaolin Soccer (2001).
credit goes to Low for comfortably translating his character
on screen with a fluent dialect vocabulary filled with vulgarities.
He is the one reason why you would be sitting through the
movie. Lee’s sissy character hits the right comedic
spot, but lacks a certain “oomph” to make you
feel for his character. As for Wong, her menacing cold stare
sort of left me in the cold because I just cannot empathize
with her character. There are a handful of other unknown supporting
characters which give forgettable performances.
filmmakers also try to jazz things up with numerous song sequences,
some computer generated effects (some more unnecessary than
others) and a typical slapstick soundtrack that is on the
edge of being irritating, if nothing else.
production value may have increased from the earlier days
of less sophisticated camera shots and audio mixing, but gone
is the heart of Neo’s movies. But Neo need not worry;
the cash registers will still be ringing when Chinese New
Year comes. It’s just that, at the end of this 118-minute
movie, I left the theatre without the feeling of having heard
a good story, and feeling that my day cannot be any worse.
(Other than a few commendable performances, the movie tries
a little too hard to milk laughs)
Review by John Li