Paradise In Service(2014)
- RatedM18 /GenreDrama
It is most likely that an episode in your typically drawn-out Taiwanese drama serials is more eventful than the entire ‘Paradise in Service’ film itself.
While you wait with bated breath for the movie to come to its crescendo, it remains pigheaded in its two-hour long monotony. To make things worse, acclaimed actors and actresses are confined to bland roles that have neither spunk nor charisma.
It is nearly regrettable to watch the impressive set-up, which took two months of painstaking construction, holding up incompetent scenes.
Although you get to see the ravishing cast members rolling in the hay, and fans of Ethan Juan may swoon or emit a sigh or two, his immensely hyped presence is not enough to warrant a trip down to the cinema.
NO CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
Set in Quemoy between the years of 1969 and 1972, ‘Paradise in Service’ centres on the life of a young man named Lo Pao-tai (Ethan Juan). Like all Taiwanese men over the age of 19 back then, he serves the nationalist force in preparation for a probable war with mainland China.
Men going through military training. Photo: Encore Films
As part of the Sea Dragons Special Force, they undergo particularly rigorous training that teaches them how to slaughter opponents, build grit and develop a hunger for survival. However, Pao-tai struggles to match up to the physical strength of his fellow troopers and gets transferred to Unit 831, a military brothel, where he serves the rest of his term.
MORE: Taiwanese actor Ethan Juan takes on boldest role yet in 'Paradise in Service'
Director Doze Niu could have done better with a clearer and rawer military narrative that would do the ill-fated soldiers justice. The brief snippets and flashbacks slotted between the many brothel scenes simply graze the surface of the perilous army life.
A scene from 'Paradise in Service'. Photo: Encore Films
There are glimpses into the mistreatment of soldier Chung Hua-hsing (Wang Po-chieh) in the murky pools of Jhaisan Tunnel, and the emotional baggage of sergeant major Chang Yun-shan (Chen Jianbin), but character development is sketchy at best, and the camaraderie among the men is hardly stirring.
There is a lacklustre portrayal of the brotherhood among soldiers in 'Paradise in Service'. Photo: Encore Films
And if you thought the racier sex scenes between the two romantic leads would make up for these flaws, be prepared to be let down.
Regina Wan Qian plays prostitute Nini and flirts with Pao-tai, who is determined to remain chaste. They bond over a song and other cheesier affairs, and there is even a scene where they run through a field in slow motion while grinning from ear to ear.
Regina Wan and Ethan Juan try to turn up the heat. Photo: Encore Films
Not long after, Pao stumbles upon Nini’s dark past and shuns her like the plague. And the time spent building up this story arc leaves you feeling cheated, with no outstanding conclusion.
There are other "helpings" of soldier-prostitute pairings, but they are as cliched and predictable as can be.
Time-wasting moments for the onscreen couple and the audience. Photo: Encore Films
Yes, you may want to watch this because you enjoy a tease, but be warned that there is no chemistry, (real) conversation and climax to be found here. So you are better off giving this a miss.
A look that you may have as you walk out of the cinema. Photo: Encore Films
'Paradise In Service' opens 6 November 2014