Given its picturesque cityscape, it was only a matter of time before some filmmaker took notice of George Town. Indeed, someone has: the recently released Cantonese film “The Locksmith” is set almost entirely in Penang’s capital city.
A collaboration between local and Hong Kong filmmakers, “The Locksmith” is directed by Malaysian Wu Peiji, who leads a cast of actors largely from Hong Kong. The film is part of HK studio One Cool Film’s goal of extending its operations into Southeast Asia.
Unfortunately, the unwieldy plot is pretty hard to explain, but can best be summarised as follows:
Cheng Hao Ren (Phillip Keung) is an apprentice to the elderly locksmith Master Shan (Hui Shiu Hung). In addition to ordinary locksmithing jobs, Cheng is often called upon by police officer Liu (Raymond Wong) to assist in picking locks.
All seems to be going well for Cheng, until the ghosts of his past start to show themselves and haunt him wherever he goes.
Now, if you are expecting a film with plenty of action, you will probably leave disappointed. While there is a degree of violent and exciting goings-on, the focus is largely on the characters and their secret, convoluted motivations.
Truly, secret motivations abound here: there sure is a lot of dirty laundry that needs airing in this part of George Town!
The movie presents several alternate timelines, and it gets rather confusing as to which is the real one. The sheer number of plot twists can be seen as its greatest asset or biggest downfall, given how easy it is to feel lost over what is happening onscreen.
And with several plot elements only emerging for a handful of seconds, the phrase “blink and you will miss it” has never rung truer!
That said, if you are fond of whodunits, you might actually enjoy trying to work out the true chain of events that unfold.
Glass-half-fullers may consider the narrative an intriguing, if often contrived, mystery; those who fall into the other camp will likely call it a tedious pile of nonsense that seeks to confuse rather than entertain.
On the plus side, “The Locksmith” makes full use of its northern setting and presents George Town largely in a positive light. Penangites might have fun pointing out the locations in which shooting took place.
Performance-wise, the cast generally does a competent job, with Keung in particular convincingly pulling off the role of a tormented man.
One cannot help but sympathise with Cheng, who clearly wants to leave his past behind but finds it is not one that can be shaken off so easily.
A shout-out also goes to Malaysian actress Yumi Wong, who plays a mysterious lass who moves into Cheng’s apartment complex. Apart from being easy on the eye, she effortlessly exudes a sense of mystery – it’s little wonder why Cheng starts losing his mind when he starts seeing her everywhere!
Ultimately, though, is “The Locksmith” worth a watch? Sure, but only if you can actually figure out what the heck’s going on.
Otherwise you just might leave the cinema wondering whether you can get those 95 minutes of your life back.
As of press time, ‘The Locksmith’ is screening in selected cinemas nationwide.