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Unlucky Plaza: Banned local director gets public release here

Unlucky Plaza opened to sold-out screenings at two international film festivals, thanks to its dark jokes and nail-biting suspense

If a group of Singaporeans gets taken hostage, would you laugh?

It sounds like a cold question to ask, but try answering it after you watch Unlucky Plaza.

The dark comedy stars Onassis Hernandez (Epy Quizon), a single father and proud owner of Lucky Plaza’s most popular Filipino restaurant. Following a food-poisoning conspiracy and a money-laundering scam, Onassis reaches his breaking point.

In a matter of hours, the lives of five people change forever when Onassis holds them hostage in a millionaire’s luxury bungalow.

Funny Business

Real-life hostage situations are no laughing matter. But Unlucky Plaza takes a somewhat comical and intriguing spin on it, making you dig a little deeper beneath the surface.

Unfaithful wife Michelle Chan (Judee Tan) is unhappy with her marriage and throws herself “out there”

Among the hostages are arrogant motivational speaker Terence Chia (Adrian Pang) and his unfaithful wife Michelle Chan (Judee Tan). This couple, no doubt victims, is portrayed as caricatures of the privileged and complacent upper class.

While Terence rings in the riches with his flamboyant speeches and demi-god complex, his wife Michelle desperately throws herself “out there”. You can try, but the film makes it a challenge to sympathise with this pair.

Adrian Pang plays arrogant and materialistic motivational speaker Terence Chia, who becomes one of Onassis Hernandez’s hostages

In the movie’s trailer, Terence cockily quips, “What kind of ordinary guy has a gun? This is Singapore!” The wealthy man wackily tumbles when Onassis pulls out a real gun. It’s kind of hard not to chortle at this gag.

Much Ado about Something

Onassis Hernandez (right, Epy Quizon) is driven to desperation and holds several locals hostage

Interestingly, Onassis – the kidnapper – pleads into the camera that he’s “not doing this for money”.

Why else then would he threaten the lives of a wealthy couple, a gangster and a religious man? And will the broken man emerge a villain or a victim?

That’s just two of the many questions in Unlucky Plaza that you’ll find yourself itching to get the answer to. But don’t expect an easy way out – director Ken Kwek will make watching this film worth your while.

Viewing the trailer alone, I’m already clutching the edge of my seat, desperate to know who survives, if anyone loses any limbs and – most importantly – where I can get the delicious dinners that Onassis’ restaurant is based on. Check it out:


Lucky Opening Numbers

Contrary to Unlucky Plaza’s name, Kwek was very fortunate with his opening numbers.

I’m not talking about striking 4D. When Unlucky Plaza opened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and the Singapore International Film Festival last year, it sold out all of its screenings.

This has been a lucky streak for Kwek, considering his previous film, 2013 satire Sex.Violence.FamilyValues, was banned in both Singapore and Malaysia.

Once the owner of a famous Filipino restaurant, Onassis has been plunged into dire financial straits

TIFF programmer Giovanna Fulvi writes, “This suspenseful debut feature… grabs your attention from its teaser of an opening and doesn’t let go until its strange, satisfying finish.”

Make sure you snap up your tickets so you’re not unlucky enough to miss it!

By Pamela Chow

Unlucky Plaza [M18]

Director: Ken Kwek
Starring: Epy Quizon, Adrian Pang, Judee Tan, Shane Mardjuki, Guo Liang, Pam Oei
Genre:  Dark comedy
Run length: 122 min
Release: 16 Apr