For most, the title “Unlucky Plaza” is a joke aimed at Lucky Plaza, a shopping centre in Orchard Road. Truth is, the actual film is not too far from that notion. Directed by Singaporean filmmaker Ken Kwek, Unlucky Plaza is his debut feature film, a dark, satirical comedy on the hardship of life in Singapore.
Told from the perspective of a foreigner from the Philippines, Onassis Fernandez (Epy Quizon), Unlucky Plaza highlights the worst-case scenario of every imaginable problem faced in Singapore, particularly the bad luck that comes with finding a job. Onassis manages an eatery at the aforementioned Lucky Plaza and employs an unmotivated employee that hails from China.
After a food poisoning scandal leaves Onassis jobless, he becomes desperate for employment in order to raise his kid and pay the bills. That’s where local actors Adrian Pang and Judee Tan come into the picture. Starring as Terence and Michelle respectively, they are a wealthy married couple living in a posh private property. Actors Guo Liang and Shane Mardjuki play supporting roles as a Chinese loanshark and a priest respectively, actively contributing to the film’s humour. In a dark comedy like this, don’t expect the priest to be what he seems.
Storyboard-wise, Unlucky Plaza is told partly through parallel editing to portray events that happen simultaneously and consecutively. The result is a mediocre mix of comedy and drama that does not come off quite as effectively as intended. The plot slows at times for character development, but these scenes ultimately hinder the overall pace of the movie.
Unlucky Plaza is made after Kwek last stirred controversy for his short omnibus Sex.Violence.Family.Values in 2012, which also starred Adrian Pang in one of the short films. True to his film style, Kwek doesn’t hold back when it comes to his characters voicing their complaints and concerns. Loud and direct, profanities are hurled every now and then, reflective of the frustrations that locals often bottle up.
This time, thankfully, he steers away from potentially inflammatory comments. Instead, his characters undertake drastic measures to further their own goals. However, Kwek’s explicit portrayal of unhappiness, while amusing to watch, goes to the extent of being unrealistic and perhaps unimaginable.
The film features multiple languages including English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tagalog, with different font types to indicate the various languages. A funky move, this should give it a unique boost and help garner appeal among the various racial groups in Singapore.
Ultimately, this film is an entertaining effort at tackling the hardships everyone can face. It is thus seemingly fitting that this has been chosen as the opening film for the 25th Singapore International Film Festival.
Unlucky Plaza opens for the Singapore International Film Festival on 4 December 2014, 6.45pm at Shaw Lido. Tickets are now sold out.
Directed by: Ken Kwek
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Running time: 122 minutes
Classification: M18 – Coarse Language