Wednesday 6 February 2013

Ah Boys to Men Movie Review & DVD Giveaway!!!

Check out our take on the movie that's been taking Singapore by storm!! And stand a chance to win Ah Boys to Men on DVD!!!

Hong Kong has such classic movies to its pedigree as Infernal Affairs (remade stateside as The Departed), In The Mood for Love, Chungking Express (or anything by Wong Kar Wai for that matter), Beast Cops and the seminal Hard Boiled to name but a few. Thailand has Ong Bak, Shutter, The Billionaire.  South Korea has Old Boy, My Sassy Girl, A Bittersweet Life, The Host, Secret Sunshine and more.  Singapore has, err... Ah Boys to Men.

It’s compulsory for guys in Singapore to serve their country in the army for two years once they hit eighteen years of age.  It’s called National Service (NS) and the guys are often referred to as NS boys during this time.  It’s no secret that most guys here hate NS.  Trust me, I know!  As a doctor here, I see NS boys on a daily basis making up all kinds of crazy stories and symptoms in search of the ever-elusive MC (medical certificate), which will allow them to get out of their grueling duties.  Ah Boys to Men is the first part of a coming-of-age comedy (the conclusion, part 2 is in cinemas in Singapore now), which follows a group of boys as they go through this Singaporean rite of passage to come out, hopefully, as men on the other side.

The story is pretty formulaic, following for the most part Joshua Tan as Ken Chow, the reluctant NS boy who cares only about not losing his girlfriend Amy, played by blogger Qiu Qiu (among other Singaporean bloggers in the movie).  A statistic revealed during the movie suggests that 90% of guys going into NS with a girlfriend on the outside will get dumped while they’re in there.  In the case of Ken it’s not hard to see why.  He’s a childish hot head with severe anger management issues and no redeeming qualities.  After a foolish stunt leaves many who care for him in harms way, he starts to mend his ways.  Well, at least that is what we are lead to believe in the teaser trailer we are shown for Ah Boys to Men Part 2 at the end.  The problem is that Ken is such an obnoxious character that by the end I couldn’t care less. 

This is a film that really resonates with locals here in Singapore.  My future father in law was echoing out belly laughs a plenty as the movie triggered memory after memory from his own NS days.  He would lament how the song featured at one point was really what they used to sing while running and how their sergeants were really as fierce and unscrupulous as shown.  For outsiders, however, the laughs come less frequently.  It’s an entertaining movie, especially if watched with Singaporeans, but unless you are extremely familiar with the local lingo, a lot of the humour will be wasted on you.  That being the case, what you’re left with is a mediocre and fairly predictable movie.  A success here in Singapore but unlikely to do well globally.

What really gets me is how, despite being such a vibrant and eclectic city, Singapore produces hardly any movies or TV shows of a quality that can catch the eye of the world audience in the way neighbouring Asian countries do.  Sure, Singapore may fund many movies made overseas like Thai horror ‘The Eye’ or Hong Kong’s ‘Painted Skin’, but there’s nothing decent made in Singapore itself with local talent.  Many of the TV shows made here feature talent imported from China or Taiwan but in doing so local talent is neglected and not encouraged to thrive or improve, often being forced to seek their fortune overseas.  The result, some of the worst TV shows I’ve ever seen.  The beginning of Ah Boys to Men is a clear indicator that if directors wanted to, they could make serious thrillers and action movies right here in Singapore - movies that would likely be respected globally.  Singapore is a cool, hot and fast paced city, different but every bit as exciting as neighbouring countries.  There’s no reason why great movies cannot be made here, movies like Infernal Affairs!  As such, I really hope that soon we will see a director pick up the gauntlet and place Singapore on the movie map rubbing shoulders with Hong Kong and South Korea as it deserves.

Ah Boys to Men, a passable couple of hours.

Rating 3 out of 5

WAIT!!!  In celebration of Chinese New Year on Sunday 10th February 2013 we are giving away a DVD of Ah Boys to Men!  All you have to do is share this review on your Facebook and mark on our group page that you’ve shared the post to stand a chance to win.  Winners will be announced on our Facebook page on Wednesday 20th February!  Do it, do it now!


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