“This is Reservist. Nobody will stand at attention.” – Handsome. Photo: mm2 entertainment

In Ah Boys to Men 4, Ken Chow (Joshua Tan), Lobang (Wang Weiliang), Wayang King (Maxi Lim), IP Man (Noah Yap) and Sergeant Ong (Tosh Zhang) are called up to serve the nation again. Many reservists are portrayed to be bo-chap (indifferent) and bo-sim (absent-minded) in the film. Is this a case of art imitating life?

The UrbanWire asked NSmen 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Julian Chow, 22, 3SG Stefan Silvarajoo, 25, and Corporal First Class (CFC) Kenny Ong, 26, to share their take.

Are reservists really that bo chap?

In the movie, the titular characters who are called up for In-Camp Training (ICT) are portrayed as lax and ill-disciplined. They take a long time to finish their meals. They drag their feet on their way to training, and use their cellphones all the time. Is such behavior very common?

3SG Stefan Silvarajoo: “Reservists don’t bother moving fast (in ICT) probably because they’re not full-time servicemen. Even the Officer-In-Charge (OIC) doesn’t care about these reservists because he can’t invest that much time on them.”

3SG Julian Chow: “Reservists are pretty chill. Most don’t want to be there but use that time to socialize with old friends.”

Joshua Tan’s character Ken Chow forgetting his helmet after a heated phone conversation. Oops. Photo: mm2 Entertainment 

Is not adhering to standard protocol that serious an offense?

During a training exercise, reservist Ken Chow (Joshua Tan) is caught red-handed by Lieutenant (Lt) Zhang Xinyi (Apple Chan) for forgetting his helmet, and not wearing it in the vehicle. Do you get punished severely for such lapses?

3SG Stefan: “The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) takes safety very seriously. But many people – both in the movie and in real life – just don’t wear helmets in the vehicles because it’s really hot.”

3SG Julian: “While I’m not in armor, I can speak for such practices in other units. The sergeants aren’t stupid, they just let stuff like this slide because they understand (how uncomfortable the vehicle is).”

CFC Kenny: “While it is a rule, it isn’t enforced. You’re basically sitting next to an engine, all the while not having air conditioning, so the thing (Bionix AFV ) feels like an oven.”

Trying to fight your officer is not advisable especially when your officer is Lt Zhang Xinyi, played by newcomer Apple Chan. Photo: mm2 Entertainment

Do reservists really complain about ICT that much?

Much of the 135-minute film is devoted to the reservists’ complaints about ICT. Do you feel the same way about ICT – that it’s pointless?

3SG Stefan: “I suppose some people are pretty happy about ICT, especially if they don’t like their work (since NSmen get paid leave when while serving ICT).”

3SG Julian: “To be honest there’s no use in complaining, you have to do it anyway.”

CFC Kenny: “In a word? Yes! But I’ll still do it, it’s my duty.”

While critics have spoken negatively about the blatant product placement and a “lack of substance” in Ah Boys to Men 4, most agree that the narrative is an honest reflection of the prevailing sentiments among NSmen.

As we wait for Ah Boys to Men 4’s final box office tally, let’s revisit how this franchise has managed to smash record after record. Click on the interactive timeline.