Film review: Sexy and saucy Lang Tong lacks a story

Angeline Yap and William Lawandi in a steamy scene from Lang Tong. -- PHOTO: MM2 ENTERTAINMENT
Angeline Yap and William Lawandi in a steamy scene from Lang Tong. -- PHOTO: MM2 ENTERTAINMENT

Review/LANG TONG (R21)/80 minutes/Opens tomorrow/**1/2

The story: Zack (William Lawandi) is a womaniser. He charms them, beds them, scams them and then dumps them. Liling (Vivienne Tseng) is his latest target, but he is unable to resist the temptation that is Liling's younger sister, Li'er (Angeline Yap), who draws him into a murderous scheme.

When Lang Tong was screened at the Singapore International Film Festival last December, tickets were quickly snapped up, thanks to a trailer which promised steamy sex scenes. But selling out one screening is one thing, mounting a profitable run in cinemas is something else altogether.

Indeed, there are quite a few sex scenes with the horny and devious Zack making out with several women (though three minutes of the explicit scenes have been cut from the film festival version).

Not to be outdone, Li'er makes out with men and women and actress Yap is seen topless. If that is enough to make Lang Tong - which means nice soup in Cantonese - your kind of brew, slurp away.

If you prefer a story to go along with the sauciness, though, the broth is lacking. It is easy to see what writer-director Sam Loh is going for as he makes his references clear in the film.

There is an homage to Takashi Miike's psychological horror flick Audition (1999) and he also seems to have been inspired by certain Hong Kong titles.

But it is hard to top the shock value of those earlier works. Even if you had not watched these films, Lang Tong undermines itself by aggressively signposting its shocker.

The opening shot is of Zack screaming in agony and scenes of Liling making bak kut teh (pork rib soup) and Zack tucking into a bowl of it are loudly and ominously scored.

It also does not help that the Mandarin dialogue sounds unnaturally stilted - as though it was translated from English by Google - and some of the acting is unconvincingly wooden.

Still, Loh is at least trying to do something different with this unabashedly trashy flick and he piles on the twistedness as Lang Tong hurtles towards its sickening end. It is not enough, though, to turn it into a satisfying dish.