Wednesday, July 20, 2016

AAIFF ’16: Polis Evo

The cars are flashy, the bullets are plentiful, and the women are demurely veiled. Prepare yourself for some bickering buddy-cops, Malaysian style. At least those cars are fast. The same cannot be said for the wits of Inspector Sani, a conciliatory slacker on the Terengganu police force. His quiet life will be upended when he is partnered up with Inspector Khai, the notorious “Supercop” on assignment from K-L. When not bickering and bantering, they will work together to bring down a nasty meth ring in Ghaz Abu Bakar’s Polis Evo (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Asian American International Film Festival in New York.

First of all, we have to give Peninsular Terengganu credit for issuing some pretty slick wheels to their officers. Sani and Khai will put them to good use. Khai was dispatched to follow up a lead in Sani’s normally sleepy jurisdiction as a way to force him to slow down a little after his latest massive smackdown. Apparently, Sani’s old high school science teacher Adli Hashim went Walter White to pay off debts, but when he refused to cook up the lethally pure batch demanded by the gang leader, he turned up dead himself.

The stakes start to rise when the gang tries to knock off Adli Hashim’s daughter, for whom Sani long held a torch. However, things really start to get messy when the bad guys launch a full-scale attack on the hospital she is recuperating in. Even Sani will have to admit something is amiss given the level of destruction.

Fortunately, there are several spectacularly in-your-face action scenes that should be catnip for fans, because the corny dialogue is not going to get the job done on its own. Frankly, it rips off dozens of 1980s odd couple cop movies, successfully copying the energy, but not the wit. The opening gag in which Sani catches a beady-eyed peeper ogling his sisters without their headscarves is particularly clumsy, especially considering what the implications might be for all parties in real life. Conversely, when Khai and Sani’s oldest sister Anis start falling for each other, the film is rather sweetly chaste. Ain’t nobody jumping into bed together, that’s for sure.

Rugged and taciturn works quite well for Shaheizy Sam’s Inspector Khai. He is the sort of hard-charging cop we can always appreciate. As his requisite opposite, Zizan Razak spreads the shtick around pretty thick, but he serviceably gets down to action business in the third act. Nora Danish is also appealingly upbeat as the assertive Anis. We just wish she could be even more progressive.

Ghaz (as he is largely known in the biz) has a knack for livening up car chases. If he ever teams up with a screenwriter who has a better ear for one-liners, he could make quite an international name for himself. PE has its weaknesses, but it is still definitely worth seeing for the tightly executed action sequences and the Malaysian flavor. Recommended with the above caveats, Polis Evo screens this Saturday (7/23) at the Village East, as part of this year’s AAIFF.