Review: Judgment Day by Ong Kuo Sin

Do too many cooks spoil the broth? Apparently it does. But as any true blue Singaporean would tell you, it’s always good to have more bang for your buck. On that level, this directorial debut by Ong Kuo Sin delivers. Which other local production do you remember seeing an ensemble cast this strong? Get ready for this: Henry Thia, Richard Low, Chua En Lai, Rebecca Lim, Guo Liang, Edwin Goh, Julie Tan, Sebastian “Broadway Beng” Tan, Wang Yuqing, John Cheng, Mark Lee, Tender Huang and Alice Ko.
And we haven’t even mentioned Adrian Pang’s hilarious cameo as Singapore’s prime minister.
We give credit to the filmmakers for gathering these actors (both veterans and newbies) to tell this story of how common everyday folks will react when doomsday is expected to arrive in 72 hours. But to properly develop the stories of these numerous characters in a 104 minute movie will surely take some skill. The director, whose career began in television, handles this mammoth task adequately, but not to the best effects. Having directed variety shows and sitcoms on TV, Ong Kuo Sin delivers an acceptable movie, but eventually feels diluted because of the many tales and messages involved.
Fortunately for him then, that the cast does a fine job of engaging the viewers. There’s Mark Lee and Wang Yuqing’s pairing of two cops with personal problems. Their screen presence is evidently felt, and the conversation scenes between them are a joy to watch. Then there’s Henry Thia’s character who wishes to be a woman, and Richard Low’s suicidal patient. The quietly affecting exchanges between the two characters are the highlight of the film, and for once, you may actually be touched by Thia’s performance.
Chua Enlai and Rebecca Lim get to travel to Cambodia to tell the story of how we should follow our dreams. Although somewhat contrived, the picturesque landscape and the surprisingly lovely chemistry between the two makes up for the flaws of this segment. There is also a story starring the late John Cheng as a medium who begins to question his own beliefs. Seeing the deceased actor on screen brings about a nostalgic throwback. Elsewhere, there are other stories ranging from corporate world concerns to family problems.
Like other movies of such nature, there are some story threads you’d pay more attention to. Here, the ones you’d enjoy would be those with credible acting. With that said, the segments with Tender Huang feels more like a business decision than anything else, and Sebastian Tan’s involvement as a car salesman seems like a feeler to connect stories together.
The production values aren’t too shoddy, thankfully. The meteorite scenes are nicely executed, and while the movie may feel like countless other digital films in the festival circuit, the cinematography is commendable. It is of considerable effort to break out of the comedy and horror mould that local productions have fallen into, and the filmmakers of this recommended film should be given credit for that. With the production of more such genres, there may come a day when we may actually pay more attention to local movies.  

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