Making of Ah Boys To Men 4 turns Dover Road into a ‘war zone’

Go behind the scenes of upcoming movie Ah Boys To Men 4 to see how director Jack Neo and his team set up and shoot a sequence using real army tanks.
A car being crushed by a tank in Dover Road. Jack Neo (left) spent hours preparing for the set-up because there is enough time and money to do the stunt only once.
Jack Neo (above) spent hours preparing for the set-up because there is enough time and money to do the stunt only once.ST PHOTOS: LIM SIN THAI
A car being crushed by a tank in Dover Road. Jack Neo (left) spent hours preparing for the set-up because there is enough time and money to do the stunt only once.
A car being crushed by a tank in Dover Road. ST PHOTOS: LIM SIN THAI
A car being crushed by a tank in Dover Road. Jack Neo (left) spent hours preparing for the set-up because there is enough time and money to do the stunt only once.
A car being crushed by a tank in Dover Road. ST PHOTOS: LIM SIN THAI
A car being crushed by a tank in Dover Road. Jack Neo (left) spent hours preparing for the set-up because there is enough time and money to do the stunt only once.
A car being crushed by a tank in Dover Road. ST PHOTOS: LIM SIN THAI

Singapore Armed Forces reservists and tanks have been mobilised - for Jack Neo's Ah Boys To Men 4

A patch of Dover Road has been turned into a war zone. Across rubble-strewn ground, armoured vehicles rumble and clank.

At around 5pm, a tank of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) rolls over a black Chevrolet family car, pancaking it.

Director Jack Neo looks pleased. There is applause. He has spent hours setting up the car crash because there is enough time and money to do the stunt only once.

Grinning, Singapore's most commercially successful director poses for photographers in front of the flattened Chevy.

This took place on Tuesday, the first of two days of shooting on location for Ah Boys To Men 4 at the HDB blocks in Dover Road, now empty because of redevelopment.

Tonnes of rubble - mostly real, with big chunks made of prop foam - have turned the area, about half a football field in size, into a hunting ground for the SAF's Leopard 2SG tanks on a search-and-destroy mission against vehicles of an unnamed invader.

Neo, 57, says that in the next instalment of his military comedy franchise, due in November this year, Singapore's reservists have been mobilised to repel an invasion force.

And unlike the first movie, where an "invasion" took place inside a video game, the conflict here takes place in the real world of the film's plot.

"There is going to be a tank battle here - you see enemy tanks coming in, then you see the Singapore tanks chasing them and attacking them."

He believes this is the first time that such an action scene of this scale has been tried here, and it will cost around $270,000 of the film's $2.7 million budget to pull off the sequence.

There are about a hundred crew members at the location, not counting the SAF personnel to drive the Leopard 2SG and Bionix II armoured fighting vehicles. The older M113 armoured fighting vehicles represent the enemy forces.

The crew have been filming since June and photography is expected to wrap next week. While past films in the popular franchise have focused on basic training, the infantry and the Naval Diving Unit, the fourth movie will put the spotlight on the SAF's armour units, as well as the role women play in the armed forces.

Much of the filming has taken place at Sungei Gedong Camp and Dover Road.

"My main concern here is safety," says Neo of the complicated set-up here on Tuesday, which will involve extras playing casualties, as well as explosions and flames.

Asked which has been harder to work with as a director - children, animals or armoured vehicles - he says that they are all equally tricky to handle.

"This morning, we had a breakdown. But what can you do? You have to work around it and carry on."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2017, with the headline ''War zone' in Dover'. Print Edition | Subscribe