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The Independent Critic

Written and Directed by
Juliane Block
Garry E., Vicky Balasundran, Terry Saw
Running Time
17 Mins.
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 "Unsecured Loan II" Review 
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Having won 1st runner-up for Best Action Sequence among the martial arts shorts during the 2010 Action on Film International Film Festival, Juliane Block's Unsecured Loan II is now getting ready for OpenFilm's biannual "Get it Made" competition in January 2011 - The prize? The winner gets funding to turn their short into a full-length feature.

Block is making quite a name for herself in Asian cinema, and Unsecured Loan II is a noticeable improvement upon the last film Block submitted to The Independent Critic, Ramly at War Begins.  Ramly at War Begins was a solidly made action short, but its low-budget origins were obvious with obvious lighting issues that kept the film from reaching its true potential.

Unsecured Loan II, on the other hand, manages to continue Block's commitment to action films that matter with a stellar story involving William (Garry E.), a man who finds himself facing insurmountable debt to a loan sharp (Vicky Balasundran) and facing some extraordinary choices if he has any hopes to survive. This is Block's second film about loan sharks, a common presence in Asian society with frequently devastating and even fatal results for those who find themselves unable to pay back their debts.

As one can probably guess given the film's AOF award, Unsecured Loan II features plenty of top-notch action and martial arts sequences that are marvelously constructed by action director Chee Hong. Decky Bahjanoon, who also served as D.P. on Ramly at War Begins, benefits from more natural lighting in this film and manages to capture both the excitement of the action sequences and the humanity of those involved in the story.

Unsecured Loan II benefits greatly from the lead performance of Garry E., an actor who manages to be convincing both as a kick-ass action star and as a vulnerable ordinary joe who could easily find himself in this type of situation. Bahjanoon wisely allows the camera to read Garry E's face each time he's standing there waiting on what may as well be a pronouncement of a death sentence.

Solid performances are also turned in by Vicky Balasundran as the merciless loan shark, and Terry Saw as Tommy, a man who himself learns how quickly one's fortunes can shift in this kind of world.

Paul van Vulpen's original score complements the film quite nicely, especially heightening the film's action sequences. Matt Bauer's sound design largely avoids the inconsistencies that often accompany a low-budget short. Block's story is captivating, though in this 17-minute format one quickly gets the absolutely correct sense that there's more of a story to be told here. Hopefully, if writer/director Juliane Block can capture this month's OpenFilm prize then more of this story will come in the future once the full-length feature is released.

Fans of action shorts would do well to watch for Unsecured Loan II at an indie film festival near you!