Courtesy of MX
Writer-director Kelvin Tongs previous feature, Love Story was a calculated pastiche of surrealist energy and artful imagery, which really sounds more interesting than it actually was. The general consensus that followed was a mixed bag, but one that agreed the film was too big for its breeches and possibly much too niche even for the most willing patron. Tongs newest venture almost stands as a scornful swipe against his critics in its intended commercial viabilities, by exorcising the ghosts of his last film into a horror-comedy, Men in White. But what this new film symbolises is a subversion of the ideals he once admirably tried (though unsuccessfully) to posit in our cinema halls with Love Story.
Now, both films as they stand are at the opposite ends of each others styles and forms and you just cant help feeling that there has to be a personal stake involved, or perhaps even a filmic reflection of his boldness when Tong recedes back to a genre that is, by and large freed from the weighty mantle of respectability. Especially one that is also presented with the derisive temptation to head recklessly down to the gutters in search of the lowest common denominator. With that temptation given heed to, the films descent into a trashy, sloppy horror-rom-com is quite remarkable in its rapid loss of focus. At the very least, Men in White will have left a mark as possibly one of Singapores most reprehensible films to date.
It is promise gone rotten. Tongs seems to have abandoned his structure and train of thought immediately after presenting to us his first creative flourishes of wit. He sets the stage for a dynamic, potentially perceptive mockumentary shot from the viewpoint of a quintet of ghosts commentating on the daily minutiae of life in our island city that recalls Colin Gohs seminal TalkingCock the Movie, while not being brazenly emulative.
Tongs most ingratiatingly energetic film loses the raw magnetism of its opening reel and quickly plunges itself into infantile toilet humour, culturally arrogant jokes that prey on inherent prejudices and a massive perversion of stereotypes that could either be construed as narrow-minded recidivism or a striking satire on the countrys attitudes towards homosexuals that leave audiences squirming in their seats. I sincerely wanted it to be the latter.
As structurally sound as an out-house, Men in White has a barely tenable story that threads together uninspired vignettes of music-video kinesis and quicksilver shifts in tone that lays contrivances atop invective shards of contempt. The reductiveness of Men in White carries with it certain disappointment that is made all the more aggravating when local films have started to carry a sense of eloquence in exploring new conventions, something that Kelvin Tong used to show with every one of his past films.
Here's the "Love Story" review I did by the same director: