Netflixable? When terrorists hit Malaysia, it’s time to call “Paskal”

“Paskal” is a Malaysian Seal Team Six thriller, an action picture that rarely missteps when it’s all about the action, but that takes too many detours into dull, cliched melodrama to recommend.

We see the county’s elite force, formed in the ’80s, deployed against Somali pirates and Filipino terrorists, doing undercover work, and in flashbacks, training for all this where we learn that Malaysian drill instructors are just like DI’s the world over — hardasses.

But the film, which opens with the recapture of a tanker in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia, loses its way through the middle acts as the tired tropes of such action pictures are trotted out — the crisis of confidence one commando (Hairul Azreen) suffers after the death of a comrade, his efforts to help out his dead colleague’s widow (Jasmine Suraya Chin), a finale that includes her being held hostage by a Paskal alumnus who’s “gone rogue.”

Director and co-writer Adrien Teh shows us a lot of commandos, but only a hint of the lives of a couple. He’s more interested in the chain of command, the places they’re sent (UN peacekeepers in Somalia, mobster tracking back home) and their various means of deployment — in an anti-piracy warship, on fast boats and inflatables, by helicopter, parachute and even submarine.

All fascinating stuff to take in as we study the tac gear they’re suited-up in, with multi-purpose eyepiece screen communications (night vision, through-wall X-ray scanner), armor and the omnipresent machine gun-with-silencer, sniper rifle, sidearm and — for the Big Fight — commando knives

Our hero, Amran (Azreen) just wants “to know what my Dad died for,” in Malay with English subtitles.

The sniper, targeted by suppressing fire by one group of terrorists, gets the sole tough-guy one-liner in the script.

“How impudent!”

Once “Paskal” finally slips back into combat for its action-packed third act, we’re treated to scores of terrorists, lots of hostages on an oil rig, a bad guy who used to be “one of our own” (Ammar Alfian), and over-the-top elaborate booby-traps and situations rendered in the “hero vs. villain” or “nick of time” traditions of such films, the obviously fictional exaggerations stuffed in this “inspired by a true story.”

Not half bad, but the bad half is all obvious self-inflicted wounds.

nasty knife fight

Rating: TV-14, violence

Cast: Hairul Azreen, Ammar Alfian, Jasmine Suraya Chin, Tiger Hu Chen

Credits: Directed by Adrien Teh, scripted by Adrian Teh, Chee Ang Keoh, Frank See. A Netflix release.

Running time: 2:00

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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