Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“Relationship Status” & “Cuak”
The local film industry is so starved for above-average independent films so that movie critics can finally justify their support for said industry that if an independent director makes a film it is bound to receive hype and/or favourable reviews. On the other hand, independent films are still films after all, and they run a very real risk of being sub-par or worse, bad. "Take Me To Dinner" is director Gavin Yap's feature film debut, while "Relationship Status" Kharil M. Bahar accompanies him on this outing as his Director of Photography and Editing, but let's just say that there are better things to do than sit through this dinner date.
Edward (Patrick Teoh) is an assassin who is tired of killing. When he falls for Jennifer (Susan Lankester), he sees it as an opportunity to leave his job once and for all. He requests for his colleagues to organize his retirement dinner, but this dinner is about to turn deadly. The story starts out in the present, punctuated by flashbacks of Edward's first meeting with Jennifer and their burgeoning romance, which leads up to the present.
Firstly, the film should be commended for its originality, even if the film is about a hitman who wants to get out of the business when he falls for a woman. We don't often get local films with older men in the lead roles, much less a dark comedy film where said older men are playing hitmen, which automatically makes it better than all the action comedy gangster films and horror comedy films. It also helps that Susan Lankester is always a joy to watch. However, this is where the film stops being novel and starts being awful.
For a film that relies heavily on dialogue, the dialogue is everything that is wrong with the film. We can forgive strange foreign accents that all the characters have decided to employ for reasons unknown, but nobody says lines like "I'm an art masterpiece... timeless... until time-" and "When are you going to read a real book?" There is also another scene where a bartender talks about his wife trying to strangle him with piano wire: "She's an insane, piano-playing bitch."
When it comes to the cast, all of them come with impressive resumes but their "holier-than-thou" and apathetic attitudes are hard to relate to. These men (and a woman), throw around the usual swear words with the frequency of a Showtime drama, but propriety aside, their incessant swearing would have been less awkward and more powerful had they toned it down. Hints are given into each character's dark past, but that is all they are, hints. We never learn why Edward is so despondent about life even though he has a wife and a daughter, who decided Edward's fate, or why was it necessary to write in Elijah (Michael Chen) when he only has one line.
Like a first dinner date, "Take Me To Dinner" tries its very best to impress, but ultimately, it comes off as pretentious. It's a tricky line to walk sometimes for films to be serious enough to keep from being cheesy, but not so serious that the plot loses momentum. Gavin Yap has a script that challenges a predictable narrative, some solid cinematography albeit more than a few product placement shots and occasional bouts of heart; what he doesn't have is a point to all of it.Cinema Online, 05 March 2014