- RatedR21 /GenreThriller
Early this year, inSing first mentioned ‘Lang Tong’ in our ‘Definitive Guide to New Singapore Films 2015’.
It comes as no surprise that this erotic thriller has found a theatrical release this soon, less than three months after its sold-out premiere at the Singapore International Film Festival in 2014.
It has been a long time since our sunny island has produced what Hong Kong would classify as a Category 3 sex flick, with a violent, not-safe-for-children-and-work trailer that did its job to turn up the heat.
Actress Angeline Yap grabbed media attention baring her body in the movie, but will the sex-and-slash combo translate into box-office receipts for the show?
The story is quite straightforward concoction of crime and revenge.
Zach (played by William Lawandi), is a serial womaniser and con man who dupes women into sexual relationships and eventually dumps them after scamming them of their money.
The first 30 minutes of the movie shows him at work, preying on the young and the gullible. He then meets his match in Li Ling (Vivienne Tseng), an alluring and well-to-do working woman.
Things take an unexpected turn when Zach meets Li Ling’s younger sister Li Er (Angeline Yap) who seduces him, starting an illicit affair behind Li Ling’s back. The femme fatale convinces Zach to help her murder her older sister, whom she blames for causing her mother’s death.
WEAK, PREDICTABLE PLOT
Director and screenplay co-writer Sam Loh said he was largely inspired by the cult films of acclaimed directors Takashi Miike (‘Audition’) and Fruit Chan (‘Dumplings’), and you can see the visual homages, such as the poster shot of actress Tseng holding up a bowl of Bak Kut Teh (pork rib soup), staring sinisterly into the camera.
However, the overall narrative of the revenge tale still lacks suspense and falls flat. It is so predictable you can smell the big twist for the ending from a mile away.
William Lawandi plays a womaniser in 'Lang Tong' | Photo: Facebook / Lang Tong 靓汤
It seems that the filmmaker is so afraid audiences wouldn’t “get it” that he keeps inserting hints and clues, but these only serve as spoilers.
The numerous sex scenes, including the shower and bedroom scenes that shows gratuitous nudity on the part of Yap, were distracting to say the least, and did very little to contribute to the plot.
Despite showing a lot of bravado in performing the sex scenes that they share, the two leads Yap and Lawandi are rather stiff and stifled in their acting. It is difficult to feel or empathise with their characters with the cliche-ridden dialogue as well.
Lawandi, a Singapore-based Indonesian actor, had all of his Chinese dialogue badly dubbed.
The only saving grace is Tseng, who settles very well into her character and there is some backstory on her to pad up the thin plot. Newcomer Esther Goh also draws sympathy as Zach’s first victim early in the movie.
CENSORS AT WORK
The movie, which sells itself on the scenes of uninhibited sex and violence, went under the knife given the tough stance of censors in Singapore. There are at least three scenes featuring sexual and violent acts that were snipped so that the film may receive its R21 rating for commercial release.
The edited version certainly puts a damper on the whole viewing experience, and that makes it lose some points for this review.
‘Lang Tong’ may not be high art, but even if it is trashy commercial cinema peddling sex and violence, the filmmakers would be noted for pushing boundaries in a genre that rarely sees the light of day here.
‘Lang Tong’ opens 5 March 2015