Jack Neo’s upcoming film Ah Boys To Men is an achievement in more ways than one.
By Dawn Seow
The financial center of Singapore in ruins, HDB flats trembling in the aftermath of a bomb attack—these scenes are no doubt a first in the film history of Singapore. Jack Neo’s latest film, Ah Boys To Men, opens with a stunning scene of Singapore under attack.
Speaking on the battle scenes in a press conference held at Food Republic, VivoCity on Nov. 6, director Neo said that these scenes, while challenging to shoot, were thought-provoking, crafted to open the eyes of the audience and show them what would it be like, if Singapore was really under attack.
“Many people asked why I would want to portray Singapore in wartime when she is hardly under any threat,” he said. “When I thought about this question, I realized that it has been so peaceful in Singapore because of the guys serving the army in the National Service. When people see [in the movie] the ruins in the financial and residential areas in Singapore because of war, hopefully they will realize how important it is for us to have NS.”
The film was made to commemorate 45 years of NS in Singapore. Neo and his crew were granted special permission to take the battle onto the streets of Robinson Road for a day. “In 24 short hours, we needed to set up the scene, film and clean up before the road reopened on Monday morning!” explained Neo. The other battle scenes that showed the bombing of HDB flats were shot in NS training zones.
The crew and cast were also the first to spend 35 days filming on the island of Pulau Tekong, where the Basic Military Training Center is located. However, being civilians, they had to travel in and out of the island nightly instead of camping overnight on the island.
The story of Ah Boys To Men revolves around the life of Ken Chow (Joshua Tan), a rich boy reluctant to enlist into NS, and his friends in basic military training. The main cast is made up of a whole set of new faces, including “Wayang King” Aloysius Jin (Maxi Lim), “Lobang” Bang Lee Oon (Wang Weiliang) and “I. P. Man” Man In Ping (Noah Yap). Each one was handpicked by Neo, who is well-known for his gift for making stars out of unknowns.
The film also features veteran actors like Irene Ang, Richard Low and Wang Lei.
The film, a two-parter, opens in local cinema on Nov. 8. The second half will be hitting the screens in February next year.