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AH LONG PTE LTD (Singapore/Malaysia)

  Publicity Stills of "Ah Long Pte Ltd"
(Courtesy from GV

Genre: Comedy/Action
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
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.ahlongpteltd.com

Opening Day: 7 February 2008



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.

Li 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 triad.

At 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.

Movie Review:

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.

Primarily 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.

Do 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.

With 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).

Still, 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Movie Rating:

(Other than a few commendable performances, the movie tries a little too hard to milk laughs)

Review by John Li


. Just Follow Law (2007)

. 881 (2007)

. I Not Stupid 2 (2006)

. My Wife Is A Gangster 3 (2007)

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