Jane and Aiman, sitting in a tree...

Pasal Kau

Dept. of Unqualified Catastrophes


Well, shit.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. You can always tell when a reviewer hates a local movie. You know, when they only have bad things to say, but feel compelled, because of some misplaced sense of fidelity, to not say anything. It’s when he or she spends almost all of their word count summarising the plot and telling you what the movie is about. God knows, there is nothing more soul-destroying, to write and to read, than mindless recapitulation. Except maybe having to actually watch Pasal Kau.

I wish I could stuff this review with a synopsis. But I lost my way about 15 minutes into the plot and didn’t really care to find It again. Pasal Kau, which starts off as a really terrible episode of Oh My English!, then blunders its way through a series of fat jokes, fart jokes, and gay panic into an utterly insipid parody of Paskal

Pasal KauPaskal… Get it? Who cares?

Meet the squad from Pasal Kau.

But for those of you who might. Aiman (or was it Arman?) and Jane work at the same hotel and have been friends for years. Jane, for some inexplicable reason, is very much in love with Aiman, but just hasn’t found the right moment to tell him how she feels. Aiman, on the other hand, is an oblivious loser, with little to no redeeming qualities, who, throughout the course of the movie, either out of benign neglect or active stupidity, treats Jane like garbage. Besides Stockholm syndrome, I can’t think of another reason why Jane doesn’t just ditch him, jump on a cruise ship, and disappear.

There’s also a visiting Tengku which the hotel staff need to impress in order to maintain their five star rating. There’s a subplot involving Jane having to teach her colleagues how to speak proper English. And about half way in, three guests suddenly reveal themselves to be armed terrorists who hijack the hotel – and the rest of the movie – in order to fulfil their nefarious mission.

What do any of these things have to do with the other? Why do these three terrorists want to kidnap the Tengku? I don’t know. And I don’t care. The people who made this movie sure as hell didn’t.

Hot chicks or terrorists? Or both?

A rom-com should, by definition, try to be either romantic or comedic. I don’t think that it’s too much to ask for at least one of those criteria to be fulfilled. Pasal Kau is none of those things. The entire movie is awkward and cringeworthy. It is an utterly worthless exercise in moviemaking, wasteful and excessive, and uninformed by even a faint flicker of wit, or humour, or coherence. 

I hated the dialogue. Every line here is either contrived or offensive. Early in the movie, when asked by his friends about what he’s looking for in a woman, Aiman tells them that the most important thing to him is that she has skin so fair that it turns red when slapped. Jane, who is eavesdropping nearby, touches her face and slaps her wrist just to make sure she qualifies. Was that supposed to be funny? It feels like everyone involved was laughing so hard at the jokes they thought they were telling that they forgot to actually tell any. 

In fact, this might be some of the worst writing ever put to film. Later, in the third act, one of the terrorists, who has just shot her way through the hotel, turns to her comrades-in-arms and says: “be aware, they know we’re here”. No shit Sherlock. What do you think gave it away? The guns? The murder? 

And the hits keep on coming. Because Pasal Kau isn’t just hideously unfunny, it is also the absolute worst example of a love story. Of course Jane and Aiman get together in the end. Not because Aiman realises he’s been a fool all along and was simply unaware of the deep feelings of love and affection he’s always had for Jane. Nope. They get together because Jane finally tells him that she loves him, and Aiman figures why the hell not. He gives her his mother’s gold necklace, clearly a reject from the Mr. T collection (“I pity the fool that puts on my jewellery. I do! I do!”), and the both of them live happily ever after.

They're getting ready to take on the bad guys.

The sad thing is that it isn’t at all unexpected. This is, after all, pretty much what we’ve come to expect from the average Malaysian movie. What is surprising, however, is that Pasal Kau is a Netflix Original.

Now it isn’t technically the first local movie to be exclusively distributed by Netflix. That honour belongs to Dendam Azalea (a horror movie, which isn’t awful, just painfully basic and interminably dull). That movie, which premiered to some press last year, cannot however claim to be a “Netflix Original.” It doesn’t have that red “N” on any of its posters. It doesn’t open with that iconic “ta-dum”. For whatever that’s worth.

Here’s the thing. If Pasal Kau had actually opened in cinemas, it would have played for a week or so, with little fanfare, and maybe even entertained the seven people who went to see it. The only reason it’s getting this kind of attention now is because of Netflix.

Which, in itself, raises quite a few questions. Did anyone from Netflix actually watch this before throwing it up on the service? And if they did, what the hell were they thinking? But more importantly, what does it actually mean to be a Netflix Original? 

The brand has, over the years, strived to associate itself with quality content. At least when it comes to programming that bears their badge. They’ve tried hard to appeal to every possible audience and demographic, and while they’ve had their fair share of hits and misses, all of them seem to at least conform to a base level of proficiency and quality. Pasal Kau fails to meet any such standard. Except maybe that most of the movie is, if nothing else, in focus.

Maybe it’s because Netflix has much lower standards when acquiring local content. Maybe they think that this is the best we can do. Maybe this is their idea of what Malaysian’s want. Whatever the case, it’s nothing short of insulting.

Whatever. Who cares what this image is about.

Calling this movie a train wreck would be underselling how bad it actually is. This is Chernobyl. This is SARS. This is the time I tried to make a soufflé. This is a Boeing 747, crashing into the Hayward Fault, triggering an earthquake that causes California to break away from the continental United States and sink into the Pacific.

Here are some other things you could do that would be more fun than watching Pasal Kau. Pushing a cotton bud into your ear to see just how far in it can go. Drinking a bottle of hand sanitiser. Passing a kidney stone. Diarrhoea. No. Wait. I take that back. With diarrhoea there is at least some relief after you’ve expelled all of that poison from your body.

Pasal Kau
102 minutes
Director: Adrian Teh
Writers: Shamaine Othman and Nazri Annuar
Cast: Hairul Azreen, Janna Nick, Amerul Affendi, Namron, Henley Hii, Theebaan G, Josiah Hogan, Hafizul Kamal, Taufiq Hanafi, Ropie Cecupak, Yayan Ruhian, and Dain Said.

Pasal Kau is, unfortunately for all of us, now streaming on Netflix.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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