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'Unlucky Plaza' undeftly delves beneath Singapore's orderly, multicultural facade

'Unlucky Plaza' undeftly delves beneath Singapore's orderly, multicultural facade
Hostage-taker Onassis (Epy Quizon) and beleaguered pastor-realtor Tong Wen (Shane Mardjuki) on the road to trouble in the movie "Unlucky Plaza.". (Cinemaflix / Cinemaflix)

With a police standoff as a catalyst, "Unlucky Plaza" imagines what malaises could possibly lie beneath Singapore's orderly, multicultural facade.

Porko's, a Filipino eatery inconspicuously tucked away in the sterile Lucky Plaza mall, has seen its business plummet since a well-publicized salmonella outbreak. Its downtrodden immigrant single-father proprietor, Onassis (Epy Quizon), takes hostages inside a palatial mansion and broadcasts his demands on YouTube. Among the captives are a has-been celebrity-turned-financial guru, Terence (Adrian Pang), and Terence's desperate wife, Michelle (Judee Tan).

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A TV news magazine segment serves as the framing device, recounting the story in flashbacks and spoiling the denouement in the process. None of the characters is particularly likable or sympathetic, and Onassis uses offensive ethnic caricatures to disparage his employees.

Terence plots to misappropriate Michelle's real-estate assets to repay a ruthless Chinese loan shark, Baby Bear (Guo Liang). Meanwhile, she's been carrying on an affair with her pastor, Wen (Shane Mardjuki). Seeing these selfish lepers all getting their comeuppance does not necessarily constitute entertainment.

Writer-director Ken Kwek means for the proceedings to be farcical, but seldom are they actually funny. A former journalist, he's quite observant of the clashes among the classes and cultures in this diverse society. Still, many wink-nudge references will be lost on all but Singaporeans, while some of the racy sex and violence would not stand a chance with the strict Singapore censors.

"Unlucky Plaza"

No MPAA rating

Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills

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