In the mist of remakes galore of Hollywood, local production seems to make a comeback with people turning to mainstream film with fresh perspective (or at least try to). Even though a sudden surge of local flavors have finally made its way to the general audience particularly this year, some have turned its cheek to a more obscure view art form that clearly wants its representation to a higher level. Then came along Unarmed Combat where there’s locality you can identify with. Although it made its way beyond postproduction in 2005, June 5th 2006 was its maiden journey to the big screen at the fully renovated National Museum.
In a nutshell, a tale of a husband and wife whose life turns in reversal role when a seemingly beautiful innocent stranger walks in the husband’s laundry shop. Admiration soon turned to wanting and it came to a point where change was enforced in order to get what he wants. And thus arm wrestling came about. Obsession soon set upon the wife and soon, emotions of both party flared about love and sacrifice. I’ve made the plot a little too serious but in actually fact, a dramedy.
In apparent situational setting, elements of 70s era with martial art flair seem to be spot on in the art direction department and too were the soundtrack, which at times do get on the nerves after the umpteenth time. From the laundry mat of yester-years to the 2-room flats and even the long forgotten cars that use to scour our streets. Even with a simple satire, a distinct difference of the story run through the film, having the first half bordering art-house non-linear path and the second, a run-of-the-mill straight forward wrap up. Although it was good attempt of mix-matching different production value, the flashbacks were a little too much to follow up in such a short span. Comedy wise, having Yew Kwang worked on several popular television series including The Right Frequency and Back To Basics, laughter seems to be on the right track be it slapstick, word-play or dead-pan.
Kudos to Catherine and Marilyn for being the most versatile throughout the show. From a submissive wife to a dominating obsessive arm wrestling competitor, her gradual change stands for most feminist to stand-up and applause for facing up to her husband but yet in an understanding position. In a totally opposite retrospective, Marilyn, last seen in the short film “The Art of Flirting”, goes into a dramatic change whose action would predict be the least likeable even though she has only a line of conversation throughout the show.
And not to forget, the 3 amigos whose comic timing never fails to entertain.
Tying up, Singapore may have its ups and down for its local film industry, but when it shines, these are the times where we should stand and applause for the effort and continue to support the local acts. With its kungfu reminiscence and laugh-out-loud presence, this is one local celluloid scene to catch.