Image courtesy of Facebook: Unlucky Plaza / a Ken Kwek film
Director: Ken Kwek
MTRCB RATING: R-16
How does a hardworking Filipino immigrant go hell-broke in a foreign land that he loves so much? In trying to untangle himself from his predicament, he gets scammed out in the process, losing all of his life’s savings. Will he have a choice in the end?
The film begins with the three main characters – Onassis, Michelle and Sky – shown being interviewed on television recounting that horrible ordeal they had together. In the movie, the tv interview appears like a formal storytelling with each one of them telling the viewers how they were able to come out of it alive a year after. Unfortunately, this kind of presentation defeats and spoils the suspense in the story.
The first half of the movie is like an introduction of each character as they appear based on the sequence of the interview, and not exactly how the story develops. Thus, it’s only in the second half as the film progresses, that the viewer gets to see the gist and what the story is all about.
Epy as the immigrant Onassis Hernandez is so convincing in his portrayal, you’d think it was tailored for him. His role as a restaurant owner in Lucky Plaza fits him to a T. His business is fast going bankrupt and he is struggling financially. Consequently, he is faced with mounting bills and rent to settle as his landlady is threatening him with eviction. His only son from a failed marriage wants them to relocate to the Philippines but Onassis will not hear of it for he loves to be live Singapore for what it can offer him.
Throughout the film, Onassis expresses his desire for a pink identification card (NRIC) given to all Singaporeans, but obtaining Singapore citizenship always eludes him.
Drinking his sorrows away alone in a bar, Onassis gets to meet Michelle, a gorgeous but lonely wife of Sky, a rich motivational speaker (and con-artist) who markets a wealth paradigm but is equally debt-ridden himself. Michelle, in connivance with her paramour pastor who dabbles as a property consultant leads Onassis to a rental scam. She runs away with his money to finance her escape from her husband.
The series of events finds the fuming mad Onassis and the pastor with Sky and Michelle in the couple’s mansion, with Onassis determined to get his money back. The presence of the Chinese gangster cum loan-shark who is after Sky’s neck further compounds the very tense situation. Push comes to shove for Onassis at this point as he tries to get justice into his own hands versus his oppressors. Armed with a toy gun and a meat cleaver – he takes hostage all four of them.
The situation quickly catches media attention when Onassis publicizes his act on social media, calling himself as a reluctant hostage taker and his hostages as the real bad guys. It is this part of the story that the movie probably redeems itself as the viewers watch with bated breath the long and suspense-packed confrontations among the hostage-taker, the hostages and the authorities that led to a violent end.
The story reveals what most of us don’t know – that in spite of its wealth and reputation, there are real issues of unhappiness in Singapore society. Director Kwek sends a message especially to Singaporeans, with many of them wanting to give up their citizenship for greener pasture elsewhere. Kwek prompts the audience to think about their identity and uses Onassis' experience as a reminder.
For his role Onassis in this crime thriller, Epy Quizon won Best Actor at the Singapore International Film Festival.
Unlucky Plaza is showing in some cinemas.