An initially arresting, noirish drama that starts jumping the tracks midway, “Kala” begins as a conspiracy thriller-cum-ghost yarn and ends as a mythical martial-artser. Way too ambitious for its own good, sophomore outing by former film critic Joko Anwar, whose spry 2005 romantic comedy “Joni’s Promise” toured Asian fests, shows a talented writer-director who just needs more focus. Local hit on April release looks to penetrate no further than orientalist gatherings.
Set in a deliberately timeless world heavy on ’50s atmosphere and black sedans, story centers on a narcoleptic journo, Janus (Fachri Albar), and a gay cop, Eros (Ario Bayu), trying to unravel some mysterious deaths that start with the torching of five people. Convoluted plot, which isn’t made easy to follow by Anwar’s preference for mood over clarity, spins on a hidden stash (known as the First President’s Treasure) that’s guarded by a ghost and is sought by corrupt politicos. Handsome guys (Albar, Bayu) and perfidious dames (Shanty, Fahrani) populate what’s basically a dime-store novel with nationalistic undertones, set in an ochry world of corruption and greed. Tech package, on a $600,000 tab, is sultry. “Kala” literally means “time.”