AFTER the critical acclaim of Cuak (2014) — which went on the secure nominations at Festival Filem Malaysia — indie director Khairil M. Bahar returns with his film for Media Prima‘s Primeworks Studios in collaboration with producer Tengku Iesta Tengku Alaudin.
Showdown is Khairil’s fourth full-length feature and first major studio project, based on an original concept by Primeworks CEO Ahmad Izham Omar. In the film, Khairil revisits popular 8TV dance competition programme Showdown (2010 – 2013).
Five talented Penang-based dancers collectively known as Battle Crew decide to enter a highly-popular television dance competition. Frontman Kimi however falls for pleasant rich girl Fahrin, which muddles his focus in the competition.
Against objection from her mother and best friend, Fahrin responds positively to Kimi’s advances. Ghosts from the past eventually catch up with the latter, threatening Battle Crew’s chances at the competition.
Featuring exhilarating dance battles and fine, local talent, Showdown is a loud and proud explosion of street dance. From music to movement, the film visually and aurally celebrates the artform it champions; remixes of popular Malaysian hip-hop underscore inspired moves while frenetic editing conjure additional adrenaline.
Its actors commit to their moves, and though not perfect meet enough success as street dancers. Elsewhere, attractive young locals shake, spin and show some skin to create the sexiest-looking Malay film released in years.
However, incongruous styling and costume choices stick out and tint the film with a garish quality. Puzzling, given head of art department is none other than BMW Shorties winner Taufiq Kamal, whose own films suggest someone of far finer taste.
The ultimate dealbreaker arrives in Muhammad Zulkifli (MZul)’s underdeveloped script, lacking enough depth to give it any real weight. Its surface-level storytelling is also prone to cliched dialogue and awkward, unintentional humour.
In terms of plot, the stakes are too low to demand emotional investment. Showdown‘s scarcity of backstories and character background also reinforces its identity as a “flick” — a term Khairil has been using to describe the film in all promotional material.
Considering its throwaway execution of the “long lost relative” plot twist, the makers of Showdown were clearly not too bothered about creating a compelling story. They really just want to dazzle with the film’s slick moves and toned bodies and not need to make any apology about it all.
As a result, Showdown comes across cartoon-y because of its one-dimensional roles and frivolous story. Does this detract from the enjoyment of the
film flick? Yes, but there’s still something here to savour.
Showdown has some of the best dance scenes ever put in a local film, and its director yet again provides a platform for new Malaysian talents to be noticed by the film community.
It’s an airy, lightweight affair with enough happening on screen to maintain focus in-between dance matches; Battle Crew speak with a Pulau Pinang accent, there’s a Tamil dance song somewhere in the mix, and Betty Banafe even makes a cameo.
While two more weeks in a workshop could have done wonders for the story — which at present merely serves as a vehicle for Pat Ibrahim‘s fine choreography — Showdown still entertains. Even better, expect a yearning to move long after credits roll.
Besides, given today’s sociopolitical climate, what better time to catch a mindless dance flick?
Showdown will be released on 7 April 2016 in cinemas nationwide.