After a string of elegant, carefully-observed short subjects beginning with PAPER CRANES (Festival 1999), who would have thought that veteran Film Festival artist Ryan Kawamoto’s debut feature-length narrative would be a cinematic amalgam crossing WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S and THE HANGOVER? Given that Kawamoto, working with producer James Sereno (PARADISE BROKEN, featured elsewhere in this year’s Festival), placed the screenwriting duties in the hands of three katonks, it would be understandable if the whole venture would blow up in their faces. Yet working with three wildly divergent screenwriting and acting talents — Benjamin Arthur, Dante Basco, and internet superstar Kevin Wu — Kawamoto succeeds in crafting a tasty comic soufflé that walks the fine line between sublime and puerile, in the process allowing his actors the opportunity to play against type and just have fun.
HANG LOOSE turns on the manic vs. medium cool performances of actors Dante Basco (THE DEBUT, Festival 2000) and Kevin Wu (aka KevJumba), here playing slightly dialed-up versions of themselves. Wu is newly-single Kevin who, having been dumped by his longtime girlfriend the week he graduates from high school, flies out to Hawai'i to attend his big sister’s wedding. Upon his arrival into Honolulu, he meets his future brother-in-law Dante (Basco) and his crazy groomsmen Ben (Benjamin Arthur) and Dion (Dion Basco). Clearly out of his element, Kevin lets himself get talked into tagging along for Dante’s bachelor party, a soiree that quickly goes wrong in so many ways — from altercations in a Chinatown strip club, run-ins with armed gangsters, a drug deal gone bad, the inevitable run-in with the local crime lord (Justin Chon, TWILIGHT; K-TOWN COWBOYS), and a cliffhanger that is quite literally that. And Kevin? A chance encounter with Kat (Katherine Emily Mills), a local amateur photographer may be just what the doctor ordered for a broken heart. Or is it?
In stark contrast to PARADISE BROKEN (and for that matter, Kawamoto and Sereno’s collaborative project 6B, which paints a decidedly different portrayal of Hawai'ian culture and attitudes), HANG LOOSE is a loopy buddy-comedy/rom-com that brings together stars from both the mainstream entertainment industry and the burgeoning online netisphere for a wild romp through the Aloha State. The performances may be over the top, sure, but it’s clear that on both sides of the camera, director Kawamoto and his talented cast are having fun making a movie, and on their own terms. HANGOVAH, brah? Nahhh, hang loose, brah!
Synopsis written by: Abraham Ferrer