Songlap (2011)



At a glance:
At once, Songlap (corrupted Chinese-Malay origin, meanin "to steal" but more like "sweet to wallop/go all out/take everythin") is a stubbornly non-commercial but wonderfully accessible urban yarn, brought to you by Kami The Movie (2008) husband-wife team of Effendee Mazlan and Fariza Azlina Isahak. Continuin in the vein of broken adolescence, this gritty crime drama doesn't go to the in-universe extremes of neo-realism like Budak Kelantan (2008) but what it does do is serve up a refreshin and thoughtful morality struggle between embattled characters who are involved in an aspect of flesh trade particularly endemic to Asia - the sale of human babies. I've been eyein its official website for almost two years now and I feel thoroughly satisfied with its release. As our friend Fadli says over at Tontonfilem, this is what Anak Halal (2008) really should have been. This is the crisp but subtle narrative our friend Ajami has been cravin for all these years in a Malay movie. This is, in fact, the first and only Malay movie in 30 years that has engaged me to the point of tears!
Sara Ali at a promotion event for Songlap.
Bad news on the doorstep:
True to the wajib tayang paradox in Malaysia (a Malay movie granted this government-sanctioned status must be played at the largest hall of any cinema for two weeks with full shows every day, by law), I paid cash money and watched Songlap at GSC 1 Utama in a 326-seater hall with the total combined audience of only myself and two couples makin out behind me (possibly a pet dog too), as the rest of the cinemagoin population must be either busy buyin tickets to watch Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol for the third time (which sucks big balls, by the way) or at home waitin for some rempit to leak the download for KL Gangster 2. This is the price we pay for a society who knows only immediate gratification and no other depths of pleasure.
Perennial wonderment:
The true meaning of MILF.
Everyone knows Shaheizy Sam can act - but what will he do next? He's the only Malaysian actor in recent memory who can reinvent himself adequately for new roles, even if they are for banana peel MIG titles. One wonders what can the industry do for actors of his calibre. In Songlap, he plays a dodgy wheeler dealer with a gamblin habit and is always on the run, although he feels very responsible for his younger brother. This movie features decent turns from the other two leads - a suitably sweaty Syafie Naswip (Mukhsin, 2006) and a frightened Sara Ali (Klip 3GP, 2011). The rest of the cast include Berg Lee (boy this fella sure beefed up since appearin as that fishin village punk in The Elephant And The Sea!), Omar Abdullah, Rozie Rashid, Normah Damanhuri, Hasnul Rahmat, Fauzi Nawawi, Rashidi Ishak, Lisdawati, Eizlan Yusof, Eliza Wong and Nasir Jani.
Reminds me of:
My old office in Kelana Jaya, where a lot of the scenes were shot, since the production house Red Films is based there. There's even a scene in the now disused Saji mamak, a restaurant we used to haunt durin many a Friday long lunch.
I can't remember if I cried:
Fauzi Nawawi sexy time.
There's an emotional showdown between all three leads under the LRT tracks, a scene that the actors have themselves described as one of the biggest and most important. This scene, although not particularly powerhouse stuff by Shaheizy or Syafie, actually made my eyes tear. I don't think I've ever grown so attached to Malaysian characters within the frame of a film but one does end up rootin for them, wishin for their redemption, their escape at least. Geez I must have gone soft from rewatchin All About Ah Long (1989) the other day.
Most memorable line:
"Kalau menari boleh dapat 50 ribu, dah lama Dr. Rozmey belajar laa."
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
Grippin, highly entertainin narrative. Keep your eyes and ears open. Many hints are dropped and subplots are told obliquely. Do watch this now before it goes offscreen.★★★★

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