The Assistant Movie Review: Bizarre and oddly engaging
For Teh to pull off a fairly intelligent narrative in an all-out action flick such as this is a commendable feat in itself. Gloss over its obvious flaws and you have yourself a film worth watching!
The Assistant is one interesting, masala-infused ride worth taking. With some surface-level inspiration gleaned from a couple of iconic titles of yesteryear, this Malaysian film is unrelenting in moving its story forward. Action-packed and bizarre from the word go, one thing it surely isn’t is boring. And this is perhaps why even the not-so-impressive parts aren’t all that difficult to sit through. It presents revenge as its primary subject but its central character, Zafik (Iedil Dzuhrie Alaudin), doesn’t fit the vigilante bill for all intents and purposes. Framed for drug possession a decade ago, he is out to seek the truth behind the murder of his wife and child. His imprisonment has made him bitter and morose, no doubt, but his just nature hasn’t deserted him so far. It’s only when he meets a seemingly unhinged man called Feroz (Hairul Azreen), who lands up at his door on the day of Zafik’s release, do things take a strange turn. The Assistant scores highly in the areas of conception and stunt choreography. Besides, the writing is pretty good for a wild, no holds barred action flick. The characters are sketched rather well and the plot keeps you guessing for the most part. The fight scenes are quite superb, but that comes as no surprise. The story keeps you engaged roughly seventy per cent of the way, which isn’t a mean feat, if I were being honest. Most hardcore action efforts lose their sheen early on. The thing we often forget about good action films is that the writing and character development need to be at par (at least) for it to work. You can’t be pushing one crazy sequence after another without putting adequate thought into why such an event is taking place onscreen, to begin with. The Assistant takes its time to build character and some intrigue, holding it in good stead.
Film – The Assistant
Director – Adrian Teh
Cast – Iedil Dzuhrie Alaudin, Hairul Azreen, Henley Hii, Kin Wah Chew, Farali Khan
Streaming On – Netflix
The story’s odd nature originates from Feroz. No heed is paid to where he’s descended from and why he’s dogging the central character’s every move. The information about him being Zafik’s late wife’s cousin (and why Zafik has no remembrance of him, whatsoever) is brushed over quickly for the deliberate purpose of obfuscation. The idea is to take his abrupt appearance with a pinch of salt. He’s there for a reason and that is to assist Zafik in understanding what really happened to his wife and son. Armed with a penchant for risky behaviour, a distinct laugh that signals he’s in the mood to test the limits and some spectacular combat ability, Feroz leaves Zafik quaking in his boots. Despite not really understanding what’s going on, he is mesmerised, taking vicarious pleasure from Feroz’s violent response to almost every situation.
Though rudimentarily explored, the film delves into psychology and duality of the human psyche. It attempts to address via a revenge narrative the existence of alter egos and the danger of split personality. The Assistant is nowhere near as effective or engaging as Fight Club or Memento but it is clear where Adrian Teh derives inspiration for his story. His screenplay does a good job of building intrigue for the first half of the film. It kind of falls away when the reveal comes knocking, becoming a sort of mad mashup of fights and betrayals. The twists thereafter aren’t much to write home about, either. The whole backstabbing best friend angle is perhaps the most predictable aspect of The Assistant and marks a losing of the plot, so to speak. More could have perhaps been explored via Kuan (Kin Wah Chew), Zafik’s former cellmate and mentor, and the bond the two possess. Kin Wah Chew’s character is key to the narrative and doesn’t appear in enough scenes, in my opinion.
Iedil Dzuhrie Alaudin’s plays the yin to Hairul Azreen’s yang, with their main characters in an uneasy tussle for the upper hand. It is this unlikely chemistry they share that ends up being the highlight of the film. They’re both good in their respective roles, with special mention going to Azreen for his unhinged and unpredictable portrayal of Alaudin’s sidekick. That creepy laugh of his marks a call to violence and stays with you after the credits have rolled. Deep down, the film is about human psychology and illness, if you will. The duality of personhood witnessed in the plot could stem from either an obsessive desire to exact revenge (and not deal with the psychological fallout of such an action) or from serious mental health issues or both. For Teh to pull off a fairly intelligent narrative in an all-out action flick such as this is a commendable feat in itself. Gloss over its obvious flaws and you have yourself a film worth watching for the most part!