Director: Huang Yiliang
Cast: Huang Yiliang, Richard Low, Zeng Guo Cheng, Brandon Wong, Emily Yeo Yang Libing, Esther Liew, Carole Lin, Dawn Yeoh, Nick Shen, Isaac Chua, Tan Jia Hui, Le Yao
RunTime: 1 hr 46 mins
Rating: PG (Gambling Theme)
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Opening Day: 30 August 2012
Synopsis: A tale of two incorrigible gambling partners, YI FEI & ZHANG SHI, who get caught up in their own web of deceit and having to fend for their lives. With their enemies hot on their heels, would they weave themselves out of this mess or will they succumb to a treacherous end?
I like and support local movies. The works of film industry doyens Jack Neo, Eric Khoo and Kelvin Tong never cease to surprise me with their sharp, controlled takes on issues close to our hearts and charming little tales of love that appeal to the ordinary person. Yet any one of these treasures is often the result of an experience that has stretched for years, a meticulously perfected craft that comes at the price of countless mistakes. It’s with this measured attitude that we must approach My Ghost Partner. Either you are very tolerant of local movies helmed by neophyte directors or you stay away: This film is clearly not going to impress.
Yi Fei and Zhang Shi are two recalcitrant cheaters at the gambling table. Sly but not nearly smart enough, Zhang Shi is drowned after their ruse is exposed. He returns as a spirit to help Yi Fei continue their exploits at the table but they soon encounter three mysterious women who want to recruit them for a gambling competition. Faced with the threat of multiple gangs who want Yi Fei dead and the prospect of facing an old rival who has previously beaten them to their tricks, Yi Fei needs the help of his ghost partner Zhang Shi more than ever.
Former Mediacorp actor-turned-director Huang Yiliang, making his second movie after 2009’s direct-to-DVD Autumn in March, has few ideas what makes a movie tick and his misguided efforts to mask this shortfall often straddle the line between hilarity and awkwardness. He means well to broach a theme that’s easily relatable to Singaporeans yet completely misses the mark in treading anything remotely meaningful to the topic. Instead he proposes an insipid plot that quickly disintegrates under his clueless direction. If you’re lucky, you will get to see a few actors who actually try to put on some emotions in a few scenes. I won’t blame them because like me, they’re just trying their best to get through the movie.
One of the reasons why it’s so hard to get this movie to work is because it has too many characters. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to feature many characters in a movie but the director must have the wherewithal to make sense out of each character and ensure that each character adds at least some value to the plot. The dozen characters here keep the script busy but most of them aren’t even given anything to do. I’m positively sure that two of the women who try to recruit the gamblers into the competition are only present to decorate the screen with their faces and bodies. The movie throws in so many random characters at so many random moments that you suspect it’s happy to be a ridiculous mess.
At the most desperate moments where nothing seems to work, the film aims for light-hearted humour though these scenes often descend into outright embarrassments. Little of the humour works and even those that work are shockingly childish, too emblematic of the most obscure jokes that I once thought forgotten and never to be uncovered again. It only gets worse when the humour doesn’t work: The jokes make absolutely no sense in the context of the scenes. Take, for instance, a man starts to dance and asks a lady whether he dances well when he is asked to buy a packet of tissue. I could only bury my head in my hands.
If you are looking for a local movie that’s going to headline the year, My Ghost Partner isn’t it. If you are looking for a local movie that can offer decent entertainment, this movie still isn’t it. Marked by one of the most clueless directions I have witnessed so far, atrocious performances by amateurish actors who seem plucked from the streets, a bloated character count that sinks the movie into a mess and the most lifeless humour in a local movie yet, My Ghost Partner is fundamentally flawed on all fronts. Unless you are really supportive of local movies, don’t apply.
(Fundamentally flawed on all fronts, this is one mistake-laden showcase destined for the filmmaking school)
Review by Loh Yong Jian