“Convincing characters, genuine scenarios and a fun amount of chaos…you can chalk up Unlucky Plaza as an indisputable win,” described Esquire Magazine of this Singaporean crime drama that had its sold-out worldwide premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was subsequently picked as Opening Film for the Singapore International Film Festival, where critics confirmed its immense audience impact, saying that “It is accessible but has something to say. It’s entertaining but has depth as well. This film really packs a punch.”
Unlucky Plaza shows how a Filipino living in affluent Singapore is pushed over the edge after his business crashed down. Onassis Hernandez, played by Epy Quizon, is a single-father who runs an eatery located in Lucky Plaza (a popular mall in the city, especially among low-cost shoppers). But when a food scandal in the area quickly spread, his business is not spared. He becomes so hard-up that he can no longer pay the rent, much more provide for his young son’s requests. When he is further victimized by a financial scam, Onassis takes a desperate move. He takes a group of people hostage in a designer bungalow and publicizes his demands on YouTube. His captives include a financial guru (Adrian Pang) and his unhappy wife Michelle (Judee Tan) who has something going on with a pastor named Wen (Shane Mardjuki). Onassis refers to them as “the real bad guys”, pointing the blame on them for his crime that captures the attention of authorities and international media, and inspired riots all over the city.
Directed by award-winning director and playwright Ken Kwek (The Ballad of Vicki & Jake, a documentary film; I’ll Have The Special, a stage play), Unlucky Plaza “grabs your attention from its teaser of an opening and doesn’t let go until its strange, satisfying finish,” according to Toronto International Film Festival. The Hollywood Reporter praised it for tackling “myriad linguistic, moral and cultural transgressions previously unseen in Singapore cinema.” M Magazine Singapore called it “a great movie”, being the kind that “stays with you for a long time.”
Ken Kwek, considered as one of the most controversial filmmakers in Singapore, was named Best Director at the Tehran Jasmine Film Festival. Esquire Magazine also likened him to Quentin Tarantino, saying that he is “alternative, and uses great actors and awesome nonmainstream music.”
Philippine pride Epy Quizon (Heneral Luna) won the Best Actor award for Unlucky Plaza at the International Film Festival Manhattan. Ken Kwek was quoted in saying that “Epy is a very intense and talented actor. His acting comes from the gut and very instinctive.” In an interview by Zaki Jufri from InSing.com, Epy said he knew that “playing this character (would be) a rollercoaster ride of emotions”, and having been involved in “several fistfights” as a young man helped in his performance. “I brought that part of me back for the film,” he revealed.
Unlucky Plaza was also shown at the Warsaw Film Festival, where it was nominated for Grand Prix, and at Kolkata International Film Festival, where it got a nomination for NETPAC Award.
Distributed by Viva Films, Unlucky Plaza hits Philippine cinemas on April 20, 2016.