A Film a Week - Repossession

previously published on Asian Movie Pulse

Goh Ming Siu is a seasoned TV writer and director with dozens of credits to his name in his own country of Singapore. "Repossession", a film whose ambiguity in the title is its finest asset, is his feature debut. The film premiered at Cinequest Film Festival and we were able to catch it at Five Flavours Film Festival.

When we meet our protagonist, the middle-aged executive Jim (Gerald Chew, glimpsed in Boo Jungfeng's "Apprentice"), one might argue that his life is about to fall into a downward spiral. After decades of career, he is being fired from work. Or, more precisely, asked to leave because it would look better in his resume. Jim, however, is used to a bourgeois life style (hence his apartment and car) and is too much of an ego-maniac to come clean to his wife Linda (Amy Cheng of "Crazy Rich Asians" fame), his daughter and his friends, so he schemes every way he can to keep the facade: he puts a risky, but profitable investment portfolio, he moonlights as an Uber (or some such) driver, but his quest for a proper work that would fulfil him gets more and more futile.

For sure, Jim wrestles with his ego, but other things, possibly from out of this material world come to the play. While the creditors are about to repossess the material goods attached to his name, something spiritual goes on to do so with his loved ones. Are those just hallucinations or memories from the past in which Jim has picked up some bad karma or is he, his life and his family really under the threat?

The premise itself is interesting enough with the echoes of Stephen King novellas and a socially aware edge to it. The title also is brilliant in his ambiguity between the literal, material meaning and the metaphorical, fantastic one. The trouble is that Goh struggles to realize the complete potential for a feature film, even though "Repossession" would make a killer short if all the unnecessary repetitions ended up on the cutting room floor or the computer's recycle bin.

It is partly due to the screenplay he co-wrote with the actor Scott C. Hillyard (also known as Scott Chong) that is riddled with so much repetitions and does not get the film into action that is promised until much too late. The other trouble is Goh's directing style that never exceeds the basic television level and remains bland all the way. Budget is certainly an issue, but the formula is even a bigger one: it is pretty certain that Goh does not know when and how to position a special effects-laced action scene every now and then just to pick up the pace and reward the viewer for the patience and it is questionable if he is able to set and direct one.

This way, "Repossession" is much more of a tease than a full-blown horror movie or at least a chilling, atmospheric one. Neither it works as a socially aware drama where the genre influence is just an added layer of metaphor because it drawn too roughly and basically.

The acting is also sub-par, but it is hardly the actors' fault. Sure, both Gerald Chew and Amy Cheng are more active on television than in cinema, but they have demonstrated before that, with a proper text and leadership, they could do better. The trouble here is the lack of debt of Goh's vision, so everything that comes out of the actors' mouth sounds fake and way too rigid. On the other hand, well-controlled mostly hand-held camerawork by Woon Seong Chow and the editing by Gregory Tay, especially later on when it relies on jump cuts in horror-ish scenes, make "Repossession" at least a watchable viewing experience. An underwhelming one, but at least not terrible.

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