I still don’t know what the film is called, and I never learned the hero’s name. After a few minutes of sipping spiked Coke through a straw in the cinema, I started calling him Rangoon Rick.
My Myanmar friend was supposed to translate, but got sick. So there I am, alone on a Friday night, about to sit through a two-hour movie in a language of which I speak exactly five words.*
This is what I can gather. Rangoon Rick is a fun-loving twenty-something in Yangon. His father—played by the same actor, seemingly—is a wheelchair bound Ebenezer Scrooge type whose hobbies include wearing sunglasses indoors and lecturing his son. Fortunately, Rangoon Rick straightens out when he falls for a saintly, Bambi-eyed…volunteer herbal masseuse? Anyway, he courts Saint Bambi under the watchful eye of U Scrooge.
Then all of a sudden, Rangoon Rick takes a turn. He goes to Bambi’s house and—Bam! He’s doing karate on the servants! He’s shoving Bambi to the floor! What is happening? Does Rick have an evil twin brother? Split personality disorder?
I begin to call his hypothetical double Siam Sam. Rangoon Rick calls Bambi to apologize. Siam Sam tries to rape Bambi’s flatmate. Rangoon Rick is guilty and heartbroken. Now Siam Sam is beating people up again. He takes out the butler and tries to kill U Scrooge.
I’m totally lost. But on the bright side, by now I’ve invented a game. Drink when…
- Someone brandishes a knife
- U Scrooge takes off his sunglasses (he does so twice, crying when he does it)
- The lead actor embraces his own stunt double
- Unexpected karate
- Someone smokes sinisterly
Then Rangoon Rick is sent in for electroshock therapy. “[Burmese word for ‘father’]!” Rangoon Rick cries out as strong men attach the electrodes. “[Burmese word for ‘father’]!!” Now it all makes sense. There was no Siam Sam after all. This is a heartbreaking story of mental illness and-Oh snap! Siam Sam is at Rangoon Rick’s bedside! He’s real!! And he’s stealing Rick’s clothes! Now he’s at the house! Sam hurls the coffee table at U Scrooge! But U Scrooge unexpectedly-karate kicks it out of the air! Now he’s up out of the wheelchair, mano-a-mano with Siam Sam!
I notice that the Coke has run out and I’ve been anxiously drinking straight whiskey through a straw. I can’t handle this movie anymore. Stay strong, J-Bear.
Mercifully, there’s a flashback. Apparently a young U Scrooge raped his fiancée after she left him at the altar, impregnating her. He repents, but ultimately decides to flee with his new son—too busy baby-stealin’ to discover the mother actually birthed a twin. She loses her mind.
I still have no idea why U Scrooge was pretending to be crippled. But his tragic character is suddenly crystal clear. He knew Siam Sam was there all along—lurking within himself, and in an attempt to protect his son ironically created the darkness he-
OH SNAP! Siam Sam is at Rick and Bambi’s wedding! Watch out, U Scrooge, Sam’s got a gun! Shot fired! Panic! Scrooge disarms Sam! Karate fight! Now Sam has the gun! He’s got U Scrooge dead to rights! “Don’t do it, Siam Sam!” I say aloud.
Sam’s mother appears in the doorway.** She says something. Sam hesitates, bruised and bloody, surrounded by the perfect life he should have had. He starts to break down. The audience ruins it. For some reason lost in translation, they start giggling at Siam Sam, and it enrages him. I try to shush them, but it’s too late. There’s another scuffle, the gun goes off.
Now Siam Sam cradles his dying father, tormented and weeping, as soldiers appear to carry him away. Rick, Bambi and the mother begin a new life together.
There was a little whiskey left when I came out. I look up at the movie poster, at Siam Sam, and pour it on the sidewalk.
*“Hello”, “check, please”, “thank you”, “thank you very much” and “chicken.”
**The young actress’s spray tan and silver hair dye only made me notice how young she actually was and that she was…actually kind of hot. Now my Burmese celebrity crush is supposed to be a deranged 50-year-old. Swell.