- 2h 2m
Father. Restaurateur. Hostage taker. How did one man's financial woes spiral into a harrowing crisis that captivated the world?Father. Restaurateur. Hostage taker. How did one man's financial woes spiral into a harrowing crisis that captivated the world?Father. Restaurateur. Hostage taker. How did one man's financial woes spiral into a harrowing crisis that captivated the world?
Synopsis - Onassis Hernandez was once the proud owner of Singapore's most popular Filipino diner. But a food poisoning scandal triggered by a disgruntled cook has left him on the brink of bankruptcy. When he is further outdone by a financial scam, Onassis loses it. He takes a group of people hostage in a millionaire's bungalow and the crisis, captured on video, sparks an international outcry. Will Onassis be finally pronounced a victim or a villain?
Review - The protagonist may be a Filipino but fear not, this is very much a Singaporean film. I love seeing all the usual stereotypes of our super materialistic and uppity religious society but without all the chest-heaving preachiness. I also love seeing how the movie floats all the usual xenophobic undercurrents in front of us but trusts the audience to make the judgement for themselves. The narrative doesn't play like a straight arrow which does invite some much welcomed pondering. There is done of that "so scare the audience won't understand, let's tell them everything" stance which is such a welcome change. You do have to pay attention to the dialogue and action in order to build information about each character. I don't know about you but for me I love a cerebral exercise anytime and I love it when a director respects the audience.
The cast is quite impeccable and every role is cast well. I particularly enjoyed Onassis Hernandez's arc and Epy Quizon plays him marvelously. He essentially plays the biblical Job role where anything that can go wrong goes wrong for him. His desperation feels very real, a superb actor. Elsewhere, I like Adrian Pang's role of a self-serving motivation speaker but I did wish his lines could have been better (my yardstick is Tom Cruise in Magnolia who is hard to beat). "Money blueprint" sounds like some poorly concocted power phrase. I must say, Judee Tan is so good as a spiritually lost adulterous wife that I didn't see any Teo Chew Mui or Riz Low in her at all (her more famous alter-egos). It feels like I am seeing her for the first time.
One of things I always tell my kids when it comes to characterization is that the protagonist at the end of the story can never be the same person as he was in the beginning of the story. Ken Kwek's writing is astute in that when all the principals finally reach the hostage drama, every character is rightfully different from when the crisis finally ends. Well, maybe not Guo Liang's ruthless gangster character but he does get his comeuppance. Absolutely love the many twists and turns which are never over the top and the black comedy. I especially love that scene where Hernandez brandishes his cleaver named 'Ah Tiong' and commands his hostages to lock the doors, windows and draw the curtains. There are three floors of this!
Where the movie falters for me is a couple of scenes of the general public demonstrating and the destruction of Hernandez's diner. If you live here long enough, you will know that that never happens. Still, nothing much takes away from my enjoyment of this refreshing local film which truly resonated with me. I love Ilo Ilo (2013) but I knew then I would never want to watch it again. But in the case of Unlucky Plaza I would gladly sit through this again.
- Apr 18, 2015