Perth is the journey into the heart of Harry Lee, a 51-year-old part-time security guard and taxi driver. He belongs to a redundant generation, eclipsed by a fast-paced, elitist society ... See full summary »
Perth is the journey into the heart of Harry Lee, a 51-year-old part-time security guard and taxi driver. He belongs to a redundant generation, eclipsed by a fast-paced, elitist society that is mesmerized with education and status. Harry desires to leave the antiseptic streets of Singapore for his paradise on earth in Western Australia. His attempt to migrate is complicated when he takes on a job ferrying prostitutes. This evokes painful memories from his past. When he takes an unhealthy interest in a Vietnamese prostitute, it awakens a dark and dangerous attempt at personal redemption. The film tackles an extremely topical issue of emigration in Singapore. It is peppered by denizens of the underbelly of Singapore society, reflecting the multicultural idiosyncrasies of a seemingly pristine city. More importantly, it is a personal journey of a flawed man in a society that does not tolerate failure. As such, Harry s rant and anger - directed at anyone and anything, but himself - is ... Written by
Perth is the dream of a simple man, named Harry Lee (played by actor Lim Kay Tong), a fifty-one year old security guard and Taxi Driver. Harry's only dream is to leave Singapore and immigrate to Perth, where he plans on living the simple life. According to Harry, everything is cheaper in Perth, which is why he works two jobs, in order to save up for his retirement plan.
The company where Harry works security is run by a local gangster nicknamed "Angry Boy Lee" (played expertly by actor Sunny Pang.) Harry also has an estranged wife and son, as well as a best friend named Selva, played by actor Victory Selvam. After a few scenes depicting Harry's everyday life, we learn that the company he works security is down-sizing, thus Harry is out of the job.
In order to stay to stay on schedule for his trip to Perth, Harry and his best friend Selva take jobs escorting prostitutes for Angry Boy Lee's Boss. Once on the job, Harry becomes infatuated with a young prostitute named Mai, played by Ivy Cheng.
If the plot sounds reminiscent of Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver, it's because it is. Thematically, the film also explores the same feelings of rage, loneliness, and isolation, that Taxi Driver does. Although, the motivations behind Harry and Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle are hardly the same. But largely, both films are gritty character studies, which degenerate into extremely violent and disturbing climaxes. While Taxi Driver is certainly the better film, Perth is much more violent and just as memorable.
Just like Taxi Driver, Perth is paced slowly, but never becomes boring. Much of the film involves detailed character development of Harry and Salva. Most of the conversations, in the film involve the need to "live the simple life", thoughts on faithfulness (mostly inspired by Harry's Ex-Wife), and of course, Perth.
One of the things that surprised me most about Perth, was that the majority of dialog in the film was in English. That, or a medley of English an several other dialects, such as Mandarin and Vietnamese. If you ever want to learn swear words in multiple languages, Perth is definitely your movie. Indeed this film features so much cursing that at times it seems a bit overdone, but it also adds to the underlying dark humor in Perth (Even as dark and menacing as Perth is, it still manages to make you laugh now and then).
The performances themselves are quite good, but sometimes become a little too melodramatic (Specifically, the scene during Harry's son's wedding). But on the whole, Lim Kay Tong is heart wrenching as the abusive, alcoholic, wife beating Harry Lee. The other performances are all above par, especially Sunny Pang's Angry Boy Lee. The prostitute Harry falls for (Ivy Cheng) is beautiful, but her character is sadly underdeveloped. Also, the dialog being in English, (although most of the characters speak English quite well) sometimes it takes away from the acting. Don't get me wrong, the dialog is easily understandable, it's just that it doesn't always flow as smoothly as it does in the native language.
The direction in the film is especially well done, and Perth features some of the best cinematography I've seen in awhile. Coming from the director of the horrible Return to Pontianak, Director Djinn proves he has talent and then some. Perth is shot in such a way, that the film has a very grainy, very raw feel to it. Perth features many beautiful shots of cityscapes in Singapore. The film also features many abstract shots, including a recurring ticking clock, which might create the impression that time may be running out for our characters.
All in all, Perth is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. While it might be a retread of territory staked out by Martin Scorcese, it is still an exceptionally well done film. The performances are good, the dialog is good, the direction and cinematography are great, and the ending is amongst the most memorable endings I've ever seen! My Rating (9.5 out of 10) Perth is a slightly flawed masterpiece.
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