The new Netflix series, 6ixtynin9, is as unusual and familiar as its name. This is a show that walks on a well-known path but also doesn't. Many moments here are predictable as well as unpredictable. Some scenes are exaggerated but, at the same time, rooted in realism. It all looks absurd but also believable. You won't likely see any other film or show like 6ixtynin9 this year.
Consider the scene where two goons check Toom's (Davika Hoorne) room for money, which is wrapped in a packet and hanging from a cupboard, threatening to fall at any moment. This scene could have unfolded in two ways - 1) The camera could have kept teasing that the cash is about to fall any second, but it would have dropped from the top of the closet only after the goons had left the premises. 2) The packet could have appeared just when the goons had decided that they had troubled the wrong person. So, what actually occurs here? I won't reveal the specifics and will simply indicate that the subdued tone makes the scene more shocking and unforeseeable.
This subdued tone is another thing that initially appears weird. A material like this is generally elevated through an unrestrained, highly mirthful mood. 6ixtynin9, though, keeps itself suppressed. Maybe because it accepts its silliness as normal behavior. A boy (Pruet Nakprad) holds a flashlight to help a man fix the apartment elevator, but as soon as he notices Toom, he immediately follows her with the torch, leaving the repairman in the dark. We laugh at him and also understand that his actions are completely natural. There is no other way he could have reacted. We easily digest most of what 6ixtynin9 shows to us because of its conviction. Every scene, no matter how ludicrous, is tinged with common sense as the series assiduously (and also effortlessly?) connects the various dots.
After a while, the muted tone looks...right. You are hit with this realization when you observe a hilarious insurance company advertisement. The ad is amusingly shot, and you expect a series like 6ixtynin9 to have the same style. Through this short clip, director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang tells us that if this series had followed a conventional approach, it wouldn't have felt so fresh, so exceptional. Ratanaruang makes the jokes work without unnecessary embellishments (exaggerated, comical gestures/reaction shots). This is a world where you can find reviews of fake passports and carry items like guns and papers after death.
In Ratanaruang's hands, 6ixtynin9 seems both calculated and spontaneous. The scenes are perfectly timed, and the characters enter or exit the frame at just the right moment. Yet, it also feels as if the characters are simply doing their jobs, and their actions are not dictated by the script's pages. In other words, they look like chess pieces, but they also don't. This is indeed an extremely unusual show. I don't think I have ever seen anything like this before.
When an intelligence officer (Trisanu Soranun) asks Toom if he could use her balcony for his mission, you don't expect him to discover a dead body that's hidden in the room. How does he come to know about the corpse? Toom looks behind him, and he, too, turns his eyes in the same direction. Usually, during such a scene, whenever someone is about to focus their attention on a secret, he/she gets quickly distracted by the other person. But here, the scene is allowed to move in a logical manner. This is why I previously mentioned that 6ixtynin9 is both predictable and unpredictable. Consider another scene where Toom is held at gunpoint, and suddenly, Fon (Pakonsorapat Aujanasarun) enters and inquires about what's going on. You think Fon would serve as a diversion, giving Toom the opportunity to grab the gun, but...
If 6ixtynin9 falters, it does so during the final portions after the big showdown. It's such a drag that you suddenly wish the show hadn't been so muffled. Also, the point regarding a political protest is awkwardly inserted. A man lectures that we should not blame games and movies for instilling people with violent behaviors, but where is this thought coming from? The man doesn't seem like a gamer or a movie buff. He also doesn't seem very intelligent. Another character says that people nowadays have a short attention span. This might be 6ixtynin9's way of telling us that you must be attentive and patient to enjoy this show. This is not your average, chintzy Netflix muck. Give 6ixtynin9 your attention, and you will be rewarded with moments like the one where two men fight over a tattoo for so long that it looks ridiculous. Another man confesses to his friend that he slept with his girlfriend and further states, "If you unfriend me on Facebook, it will be fine." 6ixtynin9 will stay in your mind for a long time.
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