Is 'Rembat' merely the asylum of madcap characters it appears to be?

Is 'Rembat' merely the asylum of madcap characters it appears to be?
Rembat tells the story of sympathetic deadbeat Malik (Shaheizy Sam) and opportunistic gambler Chin Chye (Aniu). - Daily Seni
You know you’ve made it when you have Daphne freaking Iking as your emcee (pengaturcara majlis) .

Looking a full ten years younger than her IC might suggest, the eloquent, multilingual actress/model did most of the talking at Rembat‘s gala premiere at The Cathay, E-Curve last night, all the while sporting a smart dress which ended just above the knees.

Despite Daphne’s striking appearance however, all eyes were on director Shamyl Othman.

Touted as one of few young filmmakers to herald a new age of Malaysian cinema, Shamyl’s last effort, 'Kami Histeria', was a Festival Filem Malaysia ke-27 nominee. An offbeat comedy with a fairly ludicrous premise, it announced the arrival of a new and exciting talent in an industry that could use more new and exciting talents.

Speaking about talent, in attendance were some of Malaysia’s brightest; actresses Sharifah Amani and Nadiya Nisaa, visual artist Saiful Razman, Polis Evo-director Ghaz Abu Bakar, filmmaker Imri Nasution, media dignitary Sultan Muzaffar, and publishing tycoon Amir Muhammad all arrived, eager to find out how Shamyl has done with his latest directorial effort.


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Rembat tells the story of sympathetic deadbeat Malik (Shaheizy Sam) and opportunistic gambler Chin Chye (Aniu). After a series of unfortunate events, their lives intertwine and they go on a panicked journey to try and sabotage a football game in order to get the money they need to save themselves from being killed by loan sharks. Along the way, they meet a lot of interesting people.

Interesting is an understatement.
From Dangdut-addicts, bra traffickers and murderous chefs to deranged geishas and killer pandas, Shamyl clearly placed no limits on his creativity with this one.

These characters were mostly vehicles for some much-loved cameos (Tuan ‘Tapai’ Faisal, Ashraf ‘Modee’ Zain, Abdul Qahar Aqilah, Zulin Aziz, Shamyl Othman himself, to state a few)  but were nonetheless enjoyable.

As you can probably tell by now, Rembat is a very amusing film.

The gags come one after another in a flurry of jabs, and those that hit make an impact, while the rest simply fall to the ground and are quickly forgotten. It’s a fairly straightforward road movie with just a hint of football — this helps Rembat distance itself just enough from Saw Teong Hin‘s Jejak Warriors, a road movie with a strong football theme released less than two months ago.

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There are beautiful moments of cultural exchange in 'Rembat' made all the more wonderful thanks to Aniu’s sincere and relatively-understated performance coupled with Shaheizy’s naiveté as Malik.

When Chin Chye refuses to enter a mosque for fear of being scolded, we chuckled but we understood where he was coming from. Malik’s obliviousness meanwhile aids along with the comedy, and when he snacks on an orange from the offerings table at a Chinese funeral we chuckled once again and also understood his rationale.

The pair has quite brilliant chemistry and we do hope to see more of Aniu on film — the late 90’s Mandopop idol was last in Mandarin box-office smash Huat Ah! Huat Ah! Huat Ah! which ended up becoming the fourth biggest film of 2014.

Also worth singling out are Sherry Al-Hadad, who goes from confident and flirty to silent and homicidal over the course of several scenes, and Michael Chin‘s vicious cook, an oddly-entertaining character reminiscent of frightening Gregory Horror Show character, Hell’s Chef.

It must be noted that the baddies in 'Rembat' are simply wonderful.

A major highlight, Zizan Razak‘s portrayal of “gangster paling besar di Malaysia” MR Baby was a no-holds-barred experiment in evoking rap culture. Beatboxing mid-speech and even speaking soothingly to his beloved desk ornaments, MR Baby was the most delightful sort of villain — we can’t imagine a better way to welcome Zizan back to his comedic roots.

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Upon first viewing, 'Rembat' may come across as mostly light and frothy comedic fare.

Its simple storyline is punctuated with a sequence of comedic scenes, many which work quite well due to their absolutely ludicrous nature. From its beginning till its very end, the movie never fails to try and evoke laughter.

Though it stays away from region-specific pop culture references and is generous with dishing out lines in Mandarin (and sometimes Cantonese), 'Rembat' feels very much homebound, suggesting that it was made specifically for local viewers.

'Rembat' also has minor issues with its degree of absurdity. While Kami Histeria‘s zaniness worked given the supernatural aspect of the story which helps fill logic gaps, Rembat‘s crazier side can simply appear as bizarre and occasionally nonsensical.

This we believe boils down to the film’s commitment to the absurd — despite insane characters and out-of-this-world circumstances, the story and setting is still very much grounded in realism. These characters still have to deal with transport, hunger and adat even if their smartphones have enough battery to last three days.

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Time spent mulling over 'Rembat' fortunately reveals layers of subtext — from it’s abrupt static a millisecond before an embrace, to the recurring message against betraying your own country for monetary gain, we’d like to think that there is much within Rembat that will unravel upon further viewings.

And watch it again and again we will.

Rembat opens on October 8 in all good cinemas around you! Don’t miss out on this hilarious, multi-racial film if you’re a fan of Malaysia-centric movies like Nasi Lemak 2.0!