Dec 14, 2018
Welcome back to our Netflix Original catchup, our sixth international film this week, this time from Malaysia. For a review of the other Netflix Original Malaysian film from this year, check out “Pulang” (Episode #294) for a sweeping historical drama. And if you have any suggestions, let me know at onemoviepunch.com or reach out over social media.
Today’s movie is “Crossroads: One Two Jaga” (2018), the Netflix Original Malaysian drama directed by Namron and written in collaboration with Ayam Fared, Pitt Hanif, Amri Rohayat, and Muhammad Syafiq. The film is set on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, as a diverse cast of individuals surrounding migrant workers struggles to survive, crossing paths in dangerous and ultimately deadly ways.
Immigration is a hot topic right now, largely driven by the disturbing political and social punditry on cable news, casting immigrants as either hard-working individuals seeking a better life or the worst of the worst looking to exploit any country they enter. The focus is generally on the immigrants themselves, not on the systems and industries that exploit immigrants for slave wages and unsafe working conditions, from transporters and landlords and employers alike. The lack of focus on the latter part makes it much easier to stereotype all migrants, for better or worse, but it lacks the context that simply cannot be communicated over cable news, or most of the mainstream news media. However, film offers a way to help us understand the conditions which migrants face, and that’s the context in which to appreciate today’s film.
“Crossroads: One Two Jaga” may be set halfway around the world on the streets and slums of Kuala Lumpur, but the challenges faced by migrant workers are only different from any other country in scale. Each character represents a different aspect of the systems surrounding migrant workers, or the diversity among migrant workers. We meet Sugiman (Ario Bayu), the idealistic hard worker who believes in a better life for himself and his son. We also meet his sister Sumiati (Asmara Abigail), who is being exploited by her employer, and wants to return home. We meet Sugiman’s employer, who seems to care for each worker in the moment as easily as he asks his son to burn a migrant worker’s body who died on a construction site. We meet two street level cops, one taking bribes, the other an idealist, and the cops above them who run a migrant worker protection racket. We meet foreign investors who are paying off the police to retain their workers, and being extorted at all levels. It’s a great ensemble cast of characters, all of which feel very real, and an impressive feat for a film with only an 80 minute running time.
Namron weaves their stories together in a way that reminded me a great deal of Soderbergh’s “Traffic” (2000), but for migrant workers. The characters meet and depart from each other, sometimes directly, sometimes seen only in the distance. Excellent locations around Kuala Lumpur are utilized, showing the diversity in living conditions and expectations. I really loved how the film reached its climax, with a chaotic yet enthralling fight in the rain. Nearly every scene is well produced, with one really rough dream sequence that felt out of place, and a choppy ending sequence that finishes the story. Between this film and “Pulang”, I can’t wait to see more from Malaysia.
“Crossroads: One Two Jaga” (2018) is a Malaysian drama that weaves together an ensemble cast of characters to explore the lives of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur. Namron manages to deliver an exceptional story at the pedestrian level of society, perfectly capturing the interwoven nature of migrant workers within the communities they serve. Fans of Malaysian cinema, or folks who want to see a dramatize look at being a migrant worker, should definitely check out this film, especially with the short running time. You won’t be disappointed.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 8.8/10
“Crossroads: One Two Jaga” (2018) is rated TV-14 and is currently streaming on Netflix.