Do not be deceived by the sheer coolness of this poster. You're better off spared your RM 10 and 90 minutes of your time.
What pulled me to watch this first ever local produced martial arts flick was a review in The Star written by if not mistaken, S.B Toh. It was one of the most well-written review I have ever read and the writer commented that it is essentially a Testosterone-charged movie just like 300 where as soon as you finish the movie you will rush to join a monastery and endure masochistic workout regime for hell of it. After watching it is safe to say I have NEVER been conned by a reviewer ever in my life. Heck in fact I won't be surprised if the writer is paid to seriously write a fucking damn good review like that to lure The Star readers watching that movie. Holy shite.
I do not want to diss a local effort like that even if it falls short of my expectations. The fight scenes are frankly lame, with terrible editing and moves that looked too scripted and unconvincing. That is okay. Screenplay is a total mess with some scenes that are 3-4 minutes long actually RECYCLED in flashbacks and the betrayal by one of the main lead characters still baffled me by the end of the movie and I do not understand why. I can endure that. What freaking pisses me off are the amateurish script writing and usage of terrible cliches that should've died in B-movie martial arts films made in 80s.
To start one, I suppose ALL the voices you hear are dubbed to the film that the actors acted out. That means they read the script and recorded in the studio so its obvious that whenever Patrick Teoh speaks he sounds like he's been dubbed by somebody else. The numerous groans during the fight scenes are reminiscent of Malay-dubbed Anime we're accustomed to. WTF.
The way the story unravels feels like you're watching a school play. No kidding Sherlock. We're told the main protagonists along with the mine workers are exploited and it just happens they realised it when one day eating dinner the dish ain't different from what they had for the past few weeks (supposedly) and one of those folks couldn't take it. (insert cliche) "We have to do something about it!" Then the main baddie in the movie Patrick Teoh after hearing their grouses decided to dispatch his henchmen and eliminate the miners.
So the entire dormitory the tin miners were staying burned to ground and the surviviors scampered away to the woods. They were found by Malay villagers and were nursed back to health by women clad only in sarong. Here, the protagonists endure several flashbacks which most of the time were tedious to sit through. Typically there are several love stories which was godawful including one which involves Patrick Teoh's daughter having a crush with Tiger, one of the protagonists. I felt like giving a bitchsmack to that actress and her gwaimui friend for their "partnership" atrocious enough to win a Razzie award. The way she introduced uncle Tin Sok (the uncle who takes care of the miners) was excruciating; "Meet my uncle Tin Sok, he's in charge of the miners" "Oh, Tin Sok? Tin Sok?" replies the gwaimui in awe. You might be forgiven that so-called British lady is actually some Belgian who doesn't speak any word of English >_> Another protagonist fell in love with a mute girl whom her dad was brutally murdered by the baddies. Here's a question. Before the old man was murdered, he left a letter asking anyone who read it to take care of his poor, defenceless mute daughter. One of the protagonists picked it up. Did the old man actually included a passport-size photograph? You tell me.
The only saving grace of the movie is the cinematography. Yes, considering the same guy made "Three Generations" featuring Amber Chia which I assume is a total dud not worth my time anyway. One of the fight scenes involves in a Ipoh limestone cave and the shots were gorgeous. Not to mention the murder of the mute girl's dad is actually the highlight of the film, from how the spear went through his neck which was graphic and how he was hanged. Too bad the fight scenes didn't look as cool as that.
Kinta 1881 had a climatic fight inside a cage which is an exhibitionist match arranged by Patrick Teoh to select new Head in charge of the tin mine. Now the fight scenes here are much more realistic compared to rest of the lot earlier on. Not surprisingly the movie ends abruptly in an anti-climatic manner. What does it leave us?
Judging from the hype and the way the film is promoted, I won't be surprised if the producers recouped the money from making this film. I am actually looking forward for another local martial arts movie as long as C.L Hor stays out of it, even if he's very capable of shooting beautiful scenary and gorgeous shots. Thailand, whom we Malaysians snobbed as a less developed country than us has more than just Ong Bak flick to boast to the world. We have long, long way to go.