JUNE 3 — Life has a funny way of throwing curveballs at us. One minute we may think that we’re destined to do something, the next we find out that we’re actually good at doing something else.
The same thing goes with patterns in a country’s film industry. With the success of The Raid films, which have even surpassed the Ong Bak films in terms of impact and influence on the global scene, I’m pretty sure most people would think that Indonesia would be leading the way in fight flicks for years to come, the same way that the 80s Hong Kong film industry took control of the bullet ballet films once John Woo made his mark on a global scale.
But, outside of films by Timo Tjahjanto like Headshot, The Night Comes For Us and the recent Netflix hit The Big 4, no one else seems to be picking up the mantle left by The Raid’s Gareth Evans once he returned to the UK, and the glut of films being made in Indonesia in the last five years or so have mostly been horror flicks.
The same can be said of the Thai film industry, once thought of as a horror movie graveyard because of the sheer number of horror movies being made there, who’d have thought that they would carve a niche for themselves as the leading light for making classy, glossy rom-coms in South-east Asia?
And despite being caught in what seems like an endless rut of rempit movies and unfunny comedies, who’d have thought that film fans around the region are now beginning to look at Malaysia as a reliable producer of tactical action movies?
The original Polis Evo may have begun life as nothing more than a Malaysian version of Bad Boys, but the underrated and probably slightly under-seen (despite its respectable box-office numbers) Polis Evo 2, a meaner, leaner and more serious foray into the tactical action movie genre, is probably where it all started for the current explosion of Malaysian tactical action movies that have been on the rise ever since Paskal: The Movie became a huge hit in 2018, raking in about RM30 million.
With Air Force The Movie: Selagi Bernyawa and Coast Guard: Ops Helang already proving to be pretty successful at the local box-office, and with Malbatt: Misi Bakara and War On Terror: KL Anarki set to arrive later this year in Malaysian cinemas, it really does look like we are carving a niche for ourselves in the South-east Asia region at the very least.
The arrival of Polis Evo 3 last week, which plays like a perfect combination of the first Polis Evo’s buddy cop formula and the tactical action moves of Polis Evo 2, fortifies this niche carving even more, delivering a thoroughly entertaining piece of blockbuster entertainment that the whole family can enjoy, but not skimping on the impressive tactical action set-pieces.
Putting us back in the company of Inspector Khai (Shaheizy Sam) and Inspector Sani (Zizan Razak), Polis Evo 3 announces its intention of merging the two very different formulas used in Polis Evo and Polis Evo 2 with an outrageously entertaining opening scene involving our two heroes going undercover and being interrogated by a head gangster named Chao (a hilarious Michael Ang), who suspects that they might be cops.
Right here in this pre-credits opening scene is everything you’ll need to know whether you’ll be enjoying the ride in Polis Evo 3, or whether you’ll be regretting it.
For me, the blend of comedy and stylish action in this opening scene, is another clear proof that producer/co-writer Joel Soh (who also co-directed the game changing Polis Evo 2) really knows his stuff and takes his craft seriously, and the choice to have Syafiq Yusof direct this instalment has proven to be inspired as well, as he handles the assignment with aplomb, balancing the two formulas really well.
Already earning RM16 million in its first four days, who would’ve thought that we’d have a legit blockbuster franchise with these Polis Evo films? I certainly did not think so after the first Polis Evo in 2015, because even if the first one was a huge hit at the time (RM17.8 million), it takes more than just good box-office numbers for a franchise to be born and, most importantly, last long.
Strong audience identification, variety, and legit attempts to deliver something at least slightly different with each new instalment is what makes or breaks a new franchise.
And believe it or not, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the bold choices made in the underrated Polis Evo 2, which not only gave ample breathing space for the Polis Evo franchise to spread its wings, but with its darker and grittier focus on the nitty gritty of tactical assault manoeuvres, helped pave the way for the Malaysian tactical action thriller renaissance. Long may this continue!
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.