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Call If You Need Me

A dispassionate, deglamorized portrait of organized crime in Kuala Lumpur.

With:
With: Pete Teo, Sunny Pang, Chua Thien-see.

Malaysian writer-director James Lee brings his talent for underplaying to bear on gangster-movie conventions in “Call If You Need Me,” a dispassionate, deglamorized portrait of organized crime in Kuala Lumpur. Deploying drab long takes, Lee traces a country boy’s slow rise to power in the big city’s criminal ranks, conveying a pervasive sense of moral decay without stylish setpieces or graphic bloodshed. Devoid of thrills but not interest for the attentive, this DV-shot effort will appeal primarily to the helmer’s festival fans before wending its way to cable.

Good-natured Or Kia (Sunny Pang) arrives in Kuala Lumpur to work for cousin Ah Soon (Pete Teo), who, when not overseeing gang operations, spends his time chasing after his moll (Chua Thien-see). The strain takes a toll on Soon, whose falling-out with his superiors leaves his cousin the unwilling beneficiary. The patiently observant pic will drive many to boredom, but there’s room in this typically flashy genre for Lee’s scrupulous, unexploitative approach; not a shot is wasted (from cameras or firearms), and Pang comes quietly into his own with a compellingly internal perf that makes Kia’s final decision a tough call indeed.

Call If You Need Me

Malaysia

Production: A Da Huang Pictures production. Produced by Tan Chui-mui. Executive producers, Amir Muhammad, Liew Seng-tat. Directed, written, edited by James Lee.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), J. Ishmael; music, Ronnie Khoo. Reviewed at Los Angeles Film Festival (Intl. Showcase), June 27, 2009. Running time: 105 MIN.

With: With: Pete Teo, Sunny Pang, Chua Thien-see.

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