Starring: Lim Kay Tong, Qiu Lian Liu and A. Panneeirchelvam
Tartan Video
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 28 May 2007

Harry Lee is not a happy man, a former army officer; he is kicked out of his job as a security guard and has to find work as a taxi driver. When his only friend, Angry Boy Lee, suggests that he works for him shuttling his sting of prostitutes around, he jumps at the chance. But Harry's own loneliness and isolation lead him to fall in love with one of the girls. Will Harry ever realise his dream of retiring to Perth?...

Perth (2004) was written and directed by Djinn, who had previously released the low budget horror movie Return to Pontianak (2001).

Whilst it would be easy to compare the film with Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976), especially the scene of Harry practising in the mirror which is reminiscent Robert DeNiro's famous "Are you looking at me?" scene in, this is an homage rather than a remake. However, the underlying love story has more in common with Neil Jordan's Mona Lisa (1986), in fact you don't have to move many of the pieces around as both films show a man estranged from his family, trying to gain some standing by driving prostitutes around and finally falling in love with one of his passengers - to no good end.

I found my sympathies fluctuating with Harry played by Kay Tong Lim. At times I found myself feeling really sorry for a man whose inner life is almost completely vacuous. Even his social life is restricted. But then you are reminded that the reason that he finds himself alone is that he is a very violent man. The violence is omni directional, Harry will hit just about anyone over the most minor infractions. He beats a bus driver, just for having the temerity of asking him not to smoke on the bus, and half kills a bouncer for telling him not to take his bottle outside the club. His performance is electric as he fluctuates between joviality and violence, and the sudden switches are guaranteed to unnerve and audience.

The film reflects Harry's inner violence by being just as violent, in fact the end is one of the most violent things I've seen in a long time.

Set in Singapore, the film is predominantly in very colourful English with subtitled Singlish dialogue. The print is pretty good considering the film was obviously made on a shoestring. One of the things which really lets the movie down is the soundtrack, which swings between clarity and sounding like it was recorded in a rubbish bin - with a very odd level of echo. Audio options are Stereo, 5.1 or DTS with English subtitles.

To balance up the rather dodgy sound, the film comes with an excellent set of extras. You get two commentary tracks, one from the director (in English) and one from the lead actor, Harry (also in English). There are deleted scenes with commentary, a featurette on set design and the original theatrical trailer. Now that's better than a lot of premium releases.

If eastern violent film noir films are your bag, and to be honest I enjoyed the film a lot more than I thought I would, then this is a great film if only for the riveting performance of Kay Tong Lim.

Charles Packer

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