SINGAPORE: Local director Jack Neo’s box-office hit franchise Ah Boys To Men (ABTM) is back with a fourth instalment and a twist – the “Ah Boys” now have a female army officer mixed into their merry band of brothers.
Hong Kong-born Singapore-bred actress Apple Chan is the newest addition to the ABTM family and will be playing Zhang Xinyi – a lieutenant in the Armour unit. The Singapore PR who moved here when she was four is currently signed on to Hong Kong’s TVB channel.
She will be acting alongside Tosh Zhang, Wang Weiliang, Joshua Tan and Maxi Lim who all return as the franchise’s favourite characters: Sergeant Ong, Lobang, Ken Chow and Aloysius “Wayang King” Jin respectively.
This time, the boys are back as older reservists serving under the Armoured Formation of the Singapore Armed Forces.
Director Neo told Channel NewsAsia that including a female officer felt very “fitting”.
“Actually, women (serving) in the Singapore Armed Forces is very common, especially in the Armour unit,” said Neo. “There are female tank officers, female armour officers ... so to include a female officer is very fitting and appropriate.”
Indeed, the inclusion of a woman in a predominantly male franchise seems like a refreshing take and a sign of progression in changing times, especially for a Singapore film series that will inevitably grow long in the tooth.
For Chan, she simply felt “honoured and happy” to be film’s first female “Ah Boy”. “Wearing the uniform, I already feel very proud. So much so that I feel like I want to serve the nation now,” she quipped.
Chan also told Channel NewsAsia that she had nothing but “respect” for women serving in the army. “It’s not common … and they are very good representatives for females in terms of gender equality,” she said.
ABTM 4 commenced filming on Jun 29. In typical Neo style, the film shoot is expected to last three months to include production of the fifth instalment as well. The combined budget for both films is S$5 million.
ABTM 4 is expected to hit cinemas at the end of this year while ABTM 5 is planned for a Chinese New Year 2018 release.
Even with such a tight film schedule, it’s very important to Neo that ABTM 4 comes out by the end of this year.
“Because 2017 is the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s National Service,” he explained. “It’s very important and significant for our country and people.”
Neo continued: “I want this to be a very special film where we can let the entire world know that our military is built perfectly.”