This was a much maligned movie which heavily flopped at the local box office when it was released back in 1998. I've established an unwritten rule of watching every Singapore made movie out there, whatever the form, and chanced upon this VCD at the Esplanade Library.
Written and directed by Victor Khoo (yes, the ventriloquist with the Charlie and Charcoal doll), Tiger's Whip actually is a movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's supposed to be a comedy, but plays out rather weakly with cheap laughs. Most of the time though, the jokes just fall flat. You know it's supposed to be funny, but the laughs just don't come out as you'll be too busy rolling your eyes.
The main protagonist is an ang-mo American from Los Angeles, an aspiring actor (read: bad actor both in reel and real life) who's has an attitude problem. He thinks the whole world owes him a living, and essential is a prick. Doesn't help though that his name is Dick Weiner, I mean , Winner. With a name like that, you'd know what to expect when it comes to the laughs department. In an absurd incident, he discovers he's suffering from a fictional disease called Koro, which essentially shrinks his big manhood to a teeny-weeny stump. As advised by medical science, he's to seek his fortunes and cure by visiting the land which has dealt with this disease - and no prizes for guessing it's Singapore.
Meeting Chandra, a local Mercedes cab driver, Dick forges an uneasy alliance after getting his lost wallet returned to him. Chandra learns of Dick's issue with his manhood, and offers help as they traverse around Singapore looking for tigers - after hearing advice from a Chinese Sinseh (played by C.K. Cheong, in multiple roles here) that a Tiger's Whip is an age old ingredient required in a concoction to boost a man's missing mojo. Along their quest, Dick falls in love with a local girl (played by Andrea De Cruz) in a forgettable cheesy romance, which offered a cheap, fantasy like twist towards the end, playing upon a theme of bad Karma. There are other spoofs in the movie, the blatant one being Hairy King Live (the Khoo version of Larry King), right down to suspenders and raspy voice.
But this movie does have its plus points when you watch it in retrospect. Despite it being a "poster boy" for probably the Singapore Tourism Board, like its tourist friendly locales - Changi Airport (I never knew the arrival hall led straight out to the taxi stand of the departure hall at Terminal 2) and Night Safari amongst others, there are real gems hidden here. Like the original Central National Library at Stamford Road, with its main borrowers section and the courtyard, captured and enshrined on film (though it had to be a poor one, urgh). Things like the cable car (before the upcoming upgrade), and Pulau Ubin almost 10 years ago, are a trip down memory lane. Of course there are other icons here for the sake of product placement / sponsorship, like Singapore Airlines and its Singapore Girl, and the Mandarin hotel (now Meritus Mandarin).
While the beginning and middle sections try their darndest best to entertain, the movie was an anti-climax (pardon the pun) at the end with its indecisiveness to establish what it wanted to be. Filled with hokey philosophy plagiarized from fortune cookies, an unbelievable twist coming straight out of a child's fairy tale, and plauged by horrendous acting, it is no wonder that this movie bombed at the box office, despite its professional production values, which was clearly wasted on an attempt like this.