Desmond Tan has sacrificed a few times for his art.
He wore a bikini on The Truth Seekers. On When Duty Calls, he pulled a Leonardo DiCaprio by chowing down on a raw fish in the jungle. And a golden retriever almost chewed off his nose… no wait, that actually happened to him in real life.
For his latest stunt, if you want to call it that, Dessy Boy did a full monty on Derek, the 10-part Toggle series where he reprises the role of Derek Ho, the banker-turned-"Singapore's first serial killer" in Season 4 of Code of Law.
In interviews, Tan has explained that he went au naturel for a scene that takes place in a prison cell. But it was shot in such a way that I couldn’t even be sure it was him — so why not let a stuntman do it?
In other words: the marketing folks oversold the sizzle. It’s all much ado about nothing; the effect isn’t worth the effort. Decide for yourself: Skip to Episode 3 and cue to the 17’31” mark. Don’t blink because it lasts only four seconds.
But I’m digressing. That’s more to the sequel/spin-off (spin-quel?) than his tush. Now, where was I? Oh yes, Desmond Tan is Derek Ho, “Singapore’s first serial killer”... okay, before I go any further, I must confess that I really never bought into the idea of Tan as a serial killer.
Don’t get me wrong, Tan can play suave. And he looks suave; he just doesn’t sound suave. His dialogue is stilted, delivered somewhat monotonously; his portrayal comes across forced and rehearsed, even unintentionally jokey. The Asian Patrick Bateman he isn’t.
Good thing there’s Cheryl Tan (Faculty), giving an earnest performance as Winnie Low, the shrink assigned to profile Derek before he’s sent to the gallows. The good doctor herself is a hot mess. She suffers from PTSD following an attack by an unhinged patient (Gin Moh) but her boss (Ramesh Panicker) thinks she’s still the best person for the job.
The story — zigzagging between Derek’s early homicidal days and Winnie’s stalker encounter — is watchable if slow and light on thrills and tension. For a while, Derek and Winnie have this Clarice Starling/Hannibal Lecter connection, but the leads’ lack of chemistry prevents it from reaching critical mass.
Cameos by Code of Law regulars Keagan Kang (he’s someone who should play a serial killer) and Sunny Pang (he’s a master at playing a curmudgeon) help keep things interesting. That, and the occasional dire-logue, including one bit where Derek illustrates a point with “Why did the chicken cross the road?” gag. I kid you not.
Derek is essentially a super-sized Code of Law episode but Toggle opted to break it up into 10 15min-20-min episodes. Even if you’re binge-watching all the episodes back-to-back (as I did), it still feels disruptive. Can the producers recut this into a two-hour feature? Just saying. (**1/2)
Watch it on: Toggle