Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Robert Downey Jr. Trashes Indie Moviemaking, Fires Back Over Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Superhero Diss Robert Downey Jr. Trashes Indie Moviemaking, Fires Back Over Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Superhero Diss First Look: Clear Photos Of Ben Affleck In Costume From 'Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' First Look: Clear Photos Of Ben Affleck In Costume From 'Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Kristen Stewart Says "Hollywood Is Disgustingly Sexist," Questions When Actresses Decide To Go Nude Kristen Stewart Says "Hollywood Is Disgustingly Sexist," Questions When Actresses Decide To Go Nude Warner Bros' DC Comics' Franchise Is Reportedly A Big Movie Universe Without A Clear Leader Warner Bros' DC Comics' Franchise Is Reportedly A Big Movie Universe Without A Clear Leader Data On Netflix Original Programming Reveals Everyone Is Watching 'Daredevil,' Not Tuning Into 'Bloodline' Data On Netflix Original Programming Reveals Everyone Is Watching 'Daredevil,' Not Tuning Into 'Bloodline' Rumor: Asa Butterfield Is The Frontrunner To Play Marvel's Spider-Man Rumor: Asa Butterfield Is The Frontrunner To Play Marvel's Spider-Man Rumor: Jared Leto's Joker To Appear In 'Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Rumor: Jared Leto's Joker To Appear In 'Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Ranked: All The Characters Of The Marvel Cinematic Universe Ranked: All The Characters Of The Marvel Cinematic Universe Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel & More To Star In Xavier Dolan's Next Film 'Only The End Of The World' Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel & More To Star In Xavier Dolan's Next Film 'Only The End Of The World' “ 'Blade Runner' Is Almost A Religion For Me”: Denis Villeneuve Talks Directing The Sci-Fi Sequel “ 'Blade Runner' Is Almost A Religion For Me”: Denis Villeneuve Talks Directing The Sci-Fi Sequel Cannes: New Images From 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender And Marion Cotillard Cannes: New Images From 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender And Marion Cotillard Plot Details And Opening Sequence Revealed For Gaspar Noe's 3D Cannes Midnight Movie 'Love' Plot Details And Opening Sequence Revealed For Gaspar Noe's 3D Cannes Midnight Movie 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' First Official Look: Jared Leto As The Joker In 'Suicide Squad' First Official Look: Jared Leto As The Joker In 'Suicide Squad' The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Check Out Teaser Posters For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' & Nicolas Winding Refn's 'The Neon Demon' Check Out Teaser Posters For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' & Nicolas Winding Refn's 'The Neon Demon' The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season Best To Worst: Every Marvel Movie Ranked Best To Worst: Every Marvel Movie Ranked

New York Asian Film Fest Reviews: 'Vulgaria,' 'The King Of Pigs' & 'Dead Bite'

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist July 5, 2012 at 5:04PM

Usually the New York Asian Film Festival opens with a film that carries name recognition in the West, either by those involved, or by a familiar genre or trope. In the case of this year’s opener, “Vulgaria,” it’s an increasingly familiar genre, that being the hyper-indulgent, semi-improvisational, low budget indie. From the filmmakers behind China’s mega-hit “Sex And Zen 3D” comes this show business satire that shares DNA less with French New Wave auteurist pictures, and more with Steven Soderbergh’s bizarre, sexually ersatz “Full Frontal” in its views on the small cogs in a big filmmaking machine.
0
Vulgaria

Usually the New York Asian Film Festival opens with a film that carries name recognition in the West, either by those involved, or by a familiar genre or trope. In the case of this year’s opener, “Vulgaria,” it’s an increasingly familiar genre, that being the hyper-indulgent, semi-improvisational, low budget indie. From the filmmakers behind China’s mega-hit “Sex And Zen 3D” comes this show business satire, that shares DNA less with French New Wave auteurist pictures, and more with Steven Soderbergh’s bizarre, sexually ersatz “Full Frontal” in its views on the small cogs in a big filmmaking machine.

Chapman To stars as a producer grilled by a room full of film students as to what his job entails. Expecting tales of contract negotiations and backroom dealings, instead the dim-witted filmmaker discusses the behind-the-scenes narrative of his latest film, a big budget sex odyssey where he was forced to play the patsy to an extravagantly delusional financier, a grabby leading lady and a flighty screw-up assistant just to get the film shooting.

The problem with the pointed satire of “Vulgaria,” is that it mostly falls on the shoulders of To, who plays his befuddled mover-and-shaker like a broad sitcom dimwit. There’s a colorful menagerie of supporting characters, like rock star Brother Tyrannosaurs, who puts up the money in the hope the film will include his wife, a pet mule. But these characters manage to stay grounded, given that their actions drive the plot. To’s unnamed producer is a wide-eyed bozo, meanwhile, registering outlandish spit-takes and pratfall-based reactions. By the time the third act’s deus ex machina rescues the cast from having to improvise the thin conflict any further, we have to remind ourselves we’re interested in this man’s journey from doofus to slightly-more-successful doofus. [C-]

The King Of Pigs

Ugly and exposed like a blister, “The King Of Pigs” undoubtedly leaves a compelling psychological mark. An animated effort out of Korea, the class-conscious narrative centers on Jong-Suk, a put-upon husband who can’t help but insert “failed” in front of every attempted profession thus far. After a particularly ugly drunken spat with his wife, he seeks solace in an old friend, Kyung-Min, who hopes to rehash their shared past as bullied kids, a past neither have put behind them.

The bulk of “The King Of Pigs” is told in flashback, as these lower-income kids struggle when bullied by the class’ more well-off aggressors. They are powerless against these crude jerks, one-dimensional dullards who smile through swollen eyes as the retaliation beatings they’ve received from their prey are returned tenfold by overzealous educators. When the nerds find an ally in pugilistic youth Chul, they attain a brief moment of self-respect, one that goes out the window when the bullies seek to destroy this new wannabe hero. Chul’s façade slowly starts to crack under the weight of his tormentors, and his very broken home.

In animated form, the violence in 'Pigs' is excessive and unpleasant, though never gratuitous, very specifically observing just exactly how little these characters’ willpower can affect their social standing. Jong-Suk still recalls the penny-pinching his family undergoes to support him and his upwardly-mobile sister, while Kyung-Min has to struggle with the illegitimacy of his father’s somewhat-salacious adult “karaoke,” and bullies can’t resist a little class-based intimidation, which blends seamlessly into homophobic taunts and scatological debasement. While 'Pigs' has a messy, unsatisfying conclusion that briefly delves into whodunit territory, there’s an undeniable sadness to the enterprise, a fact not lost on our two protagonists. As they share a quiet meal, their reminiscence can’t obscure an educational system, and eventually social strata, that has branded them “losers” for life. [B]

Dead Bite

Playing themselves as a major hip hop act, Thai rapper Joey Boy and fellow MC’s Gancore Club star in the Boy-directed “Dead Bite,” an attempt to meld the world of Thai pop music and Caribbean zombie madness. Struggling to keep their never-ending party going, they desperately take a gig on Mermaid Island with a bevy of bikini’d babes, not aware that this cursed land is populated by the flesh-eating undead. If you said to yourself, “Hey, that sounds like ‘Raw Force’” then you might be the right audience for this. That being said, “Dead Bite” is no “Raw Force.”

Joey Boy and his compatriots are at ease in front of the camera, maybe too much, allowing this blunt-fueled goof-fest to take it’s time in floating towards the ninety-minute mark. The zombie attack sequences never have a tremendous amount of suspense behind them, but there’s some enjoyment to be had by an expendable cast falling prey to the walking dead. Our heroes never really stop acting like dudes, even razzing one of their fellow rappers after he loses a leg and must pick the maggots out of his wound. We're guessing this was originally going to be in a “Hangover” sequel.

“Dead Bite” gets away with its innate disposability thanks to a raucous soundtrack featuring original music from the Gancore Club, who attempt hip hop postures, but are more 98 Degrees than Public Enemy. There’s more weight given to their off-the-cuff jokes and natural camaraderie than there is to the scares, however, and the film attempts to hit a home run in the ninth inning with a striking tableau of survivors battling zombies along the beach as if it were a bikini festival at Normandy. Boy has a decent eye for composition in these final moments, though you wonder why it took him and his film seventy minutes to rev up, as if they shot sequentially and he learned as they went on. Then again, if you like zombies and Thai pop, this might be your best choice of cocktail. [D+]
 

This article is related to: NYAFF, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates