Sunday, June 6, 2010

Review: Sin Sisters 2 (Phu Ying Ha Bap 2)

  • Directed by Sukrij Narin
  • Starring Thichacha Jareonpongpreecha, Saruta Reungwiriya, Rungrawee Barijindakul, Patshuda Pantapipat, Kanoklada Wichakon, Pornthip Pulsawat
  • Released in Thai cinemas on May 27, 2010; rated 20-
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 2/5

Historic because it's the first commercially released Thai film to be given the restrictive 20- rating, everyone involved with Sin Sisters 2 (ผู้หญิง 5 บาป 2, Phu Ying Ha Bap Song) is going to look back and wish it were better.

Writer-director Sukrij Narin might wish he'd made a more compelling commentary of society's ills rather than a hamfisted and boring argument that having sex is sinful.

The actresses are going to wish they had given more nuanced performances, rather than the over-the-top, hammy mugging they all engage in.

And the censors, or ratings board, or whatever they are, they're going to wish they'd banned this dumb movie.

But then there's nothing here that's worth banning.

And as for the restrictive rating, there's nothing here that anyone who's of at least the legal age of consent shouldn't be barred from seeing. People should have the freedom to watch bad movies if they want.

Sin Sisters 2 is supposed to be a test case for the Thai motion-picture ratings system. But if Sukrij is seeking to push the envelope to see how far he can go, it appears he didn't push hard enough. Or maybe he did, and this is what you get.

What's seen here is barely R-rated – the type of soft-porn you might see late at night on cable television in the U.S.

Under the U.S. ratings system, an R rating is restricted, with viewers under 17 not admitted without a parent or guardian.

There is the NC-17 rating, formerly known as rated X until that term was co-opted by the porn industry. NC-17 strictly bars anyone under 17 from seeing the movie, but is rarely used.

Ang Lee's Lust, Caution was a rare NC-17 movie and it showed considerably more than Sin Sisters 2 does. It'd be interesting for Lust, Caution to be officially submitted under Thailand's current censorship system to see how Tony Leung Chiu-Wai's private parts fare.

Under Thailand's system, 20- is the lone restricted rating, barring viewers under the age of 20. I.D. checks are mandatory, at least if you look young.

At the box office, there was no I.D. check for me, though the doors to the screening hall were closed when I arrived, and a cineplex staffer was keen to check my ticket before I entered.

All the other age ratings, 13+, 15+ and 18+, are advisory only, and anybody can see those movies regardless of their age. So the harsh 20- rating is the only alternative for cultural minders wanting to keep big-screen smut away from young eyes.

So far there have been two other 20-minus (also unofficially stated as 20+) movies released in Thailand. The first was Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, which presumably had the restricted rating imposed for the copious depictions of drug use by star Nicolas Cage. It had only a limited release.

The second movie to get the 20- rating – and the first Thai film to be rated such – is Anocha Suwichakornpong's Mundane History (Jao Nok Krajok), which so far has been shown in Thailand at last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok and has yet to be commercially released. Though the movie is filled with symbolism and allegories to Thai society, presumably the harsh rating is for the infamous bathtub masturbation scene, which has full-frontal male nudity.

It's probably a better case study of what the censors might allow than Sin Sisters 2.

Essentially, Sin Sisters 2 is the same thing as the Thai soap operas that are broadcast into homes nightly, but with more skin. It's a slap-and-kiss scream fest mated with lousily framed sex scenes. There's a few girl-on-girl smooches and lots of lame grunting, groaning and pantomine thrusting to no avail.

A few random shots of undulating bare breasts are thrown in, and there's perhaps one brief instance of a gyrating buttock. But those naked body parts don't appear to actually belong to any of the actresses whose faces are on the screen. The naughty bits could have been borrowed from a breast-examination video or a "sex DVD" the street hawkers on Silom are always pushing.

The story has five women – TV producer Nan (Thichacha Jareonpongpreecha), closeted-lesbian pop singer Oil (Saruta Reungwiriya), soap actress Joyce (Rungrawee Barijindakul), model Bam (Patshuda Pantapipat) and beauty-pageant queen Oom (Kanoklada Wichakon) – trapped together in a dark room. Each is on a platform in front of a spiked wall, and their wrists are cuffed to chains dangling from the ceiling. They are all modestly dressed in long shirts, though a couple of the more generously chesty actresses have their top buttons undone, showing off cleavage and designer bras.

A devilish voice informs them that four will die. Each must confess their deepest, darkest, most sinful sexual secret. The one whose sin is judged worst by the Satanic speaker will be the one who survives.

And there's the usual twist. It involves a rival pageant queen named Panda (Pornthip Pulsawat).

That all of them are affiliated with the entertainment industry is commentary enough. They all use sex to get what they want. It's the mean-spirited, shallow and pessimistic view that everyone in showbiz are talentless hacks who sleep their way to the top.

They are adulterers, cheaters and liars. But their greatest sin it seems is that they enjoy sometimes kinky sex.

Can't have that.

I dreaded seeing Sin Sisters 2, but went ahead and submitted myself to the lash anyway, because of the movie's, you know, historic value.

It's Sukrij's sequel to a controversial 2002 offering on roughly the same premise that is generally ranked as one of the worst Thai films ever made. Thai cinephile Jit Phokaew lauds Sin Sisters for its so-bad-it's-good quality.

And approaching Sin Sisters 2 on the lookout for cult-movie qualities, it's actually somewhat enjoyable.

I liked the color palette and garish costume design, the deliberate over-acting and the cornball 1980s hair-metal that played over every sex scene, just like a porno.

There's even attempts at humor, with ubiquitous comedian Kom Chuanchuen appearing in a weird role as a South Korean pop star.

Early on, the mood is light-hearted as the characters in the first tryst re-enact the iconic ice massage scene from Nonzee Nimibutr's 2001 erotic drama Jan Dara. The guy holds up the DVD box, just in case you didn't get the reference. They make reference to the original Sin Sisters too.

So I didn't hate it and wish I hadn't bothered.

But I probably wouldn't want to see it again though, not even decades from now in a retrospective on Thai cinema history.

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1 comment:

  1. It's staggering that crap like this can be made, yet an Apichatpong movie like Syndromes and a Century, is considered "dull" by the Ministry of Culture and censored. I wonder how well Sin Sisters 2 will do in Cannes next year?!


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