Writer: Casey LeeWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Langgar" and "KL Gangster 2".
On the surface, "Balistik" looked like it has found the formula for success in the Malaysian box office. It has a well-received director by the Chinese audience in Silver who has made box office hits in recent years starring Chinese DJ, Jack Lim, a cast led by a pair of powerful Malay stars with Rosyam Nor and Adi Putra, and the resources of Asia Tropical Films that made it the third most profitable local movie last year. Tie them up together as a fuse to a keg of a moneymaking premise promising action, drama and prime pop entertainment and you have a movie that looks primed to explode in the box office.
Saga (Rosyam Nor) is a hired hitman handled by a crippled Jack (Jack Lim), who is also a single father to his 6 year old son, Rykarl (Rykarl Iskandar). When Saga refuses to protect a shipment of drugs worth millions to be smuggled into the country for a local gang, Saga becomes a target for the underworld for their humiliation. Things even get more complicated for Saga when his estranged wife and Rykarl's mother, Salina (Rita Rudaini), manages to track him down. Only for Saga to find out that her new husband, Nizam (Adi Putra), is a police investigator who has been assigned to lead the investigation on Saga for the murders he has committed throughout his career.
So how does this local joint production that comes from the best of both worlds fare in leveraging on its on-paper quality to send Malaysian audiences to support local productions in droves? Let's just say, the only thing it manages to blow is the dismal standards that our filmmaking can go. Even with the best resources that money can buy at our disposal.
There is a disapproving laziness in the script writing by Rosyam Nor and Silver, if the vague ideas of what the characters should be without any character development, can be called a script. The scenes looked like they were planned around the set pieces to loosely join them together. Even with the twist ending, it felt more improvised, losing much of its impact than intended when it doesn't follow a clear direction in the plot to set up the surprise. This is made even worse when there are self-referential dialogues between the characters that ironically points directly to the gaping plot holes and embarrassing inconsistencies that would make a self-respecting screenwriter go ballistic. If there needs to be further evidence that the script was the least among the priorities is that they didn't even bother to give different names to the other characters from the name of the actors playing them.
But script-issues aside, the real reason why anyone would watch this is for the action sequences that as far as action sequences done in local productions go is plainly unimaginative, coupled with the dodgy camerawork. Other than the car chase from the beginning, the exciting engagements goes downhill from there. Not even the accentuated gunfights by the underfed John Woo pigeons or the slow-motioned shooting spree with Saga and Nizam's backs to each other that extends too long into cheesy territory, grabs the attention. There's just nothing badass about shooting down an entire floor filled with harmless mirrors.
But it all can't be that bad, right? There is still a rather glittering cast whose performance can make this at least bearable. Fortunately that is true to a small extent. Even with so little help from the script, Gan Mei Yan at least puts in some nuanced effort to be a tragic character as Jack's wife and child actor Rykarl Iskandar shines naturally. But even their momentarily relieving appearances feel all too wasted when contrasted by the soulless performance of the main leads that has to overly rely on the constantly blaring soundtrack to deliver their emotions in the scene. Rita Rudaini flickers between the mean-spirited woman to submissive wife as another victim to the bad writing, and Jack Lim is either trying hard not to outshine his major co-star who can't deliver a cool one-liner, or just prove that he can't get his head in the game when not wearing his brown security guard uniform.
For all of its glaring flaws, "Balistik" just reeks of unplanned filmmaking at best or lazy money grab to pay for Silver's commercially bloated "Ah Beng: Mission Impossible" at worst, thinking that it could draw a crowd out by spending the least amount of effort to score the biggest buck, wasting precious production resources, shamelessly flaunting its big-name cast and demolishing the box office streak of a director who should have known better in giving the movie enough commercial appeal to make it at least worth the price of admission.
Even if "Balistik" reaches its ambitious goal to make at least RM10 million (nearly double the highest grossing local movie made in 2013), it can only do so with the blindly faithful fanbase of its cast, director and the marketing strength of its distributor. Even if it does, we can only be proud not because we have found our "Avatar", but our "Transformers".
If there's anything to take away from "Balistik" is that it is an exemplary tragedy and failed attempt of joining the best of the Chinese and Malay production expertise by bringing out the worst of them, signifying that even with the shiniest bells and whistles, the real reason why Malaysian audiences have been avoiding local productions is because they fail to grasp (yet again) the basic tenet of good moviemaking; a good script. Cinema Online, 15 January 2014