Review: 3.50

The title of the movie, 3.50, may seem like an innocuous figure, but is in fact referring to the price you pay on the street for sex with a Cambodian girl. Or in the words of Vanna (played by Aem Kwanlar), it is the cost of a life, as the movie exposes the dark side of Cambodia’s underbelly – the illegal sex trade.

Eunice Olsen, former beauty queen and Nominated Member of Parliament, headlines the show, playing the story’s fearless, reckless and feisty heroine Rebecca Wilson and doubling as the movie’s co-producer. The familiarity ends here. The rest of the cast includes Jora, the innocent village girl sold into prostitution (played by Long Sonita), her sweetheart Sopheap, (played by Leang Honglee) and Vanna, in a weird pointy hairdo.

The movie begins on a weak note, as we see Rebecca in a terse chat with a village elder to purchase Jora’s diary. The stilted conversation is obvious as the elder struggles to portray the right emotions in an unfamiliar language – English. In fact, Eunice suffers from the same fate as she unexpectedly switches to Khmer sporadically during the movie, which begs the question of having the movie in the original native language. Audience can make do with subtitles.

But the social message behind the movie is worth watching on, as we are drawn to the characters and the grittiness of the slums, the seedy nightlife a stark difference and shock to our system.

The story follows Jora’s journey into prostitution from the village girl seduced and deceived by the trappings of the city.

The movie brings to attention an issue not widely known – virginity is a highly prized commodity in Cambodia because some men in Cambodia believe it makes them stronger, and can apparently cure them from AIDS.

This lays the premise of the movie as we watch uncomfortably the scenes unfolding where virgin girls are herded like cattle for sale. The movie also cares to show the dire consequences if a girl isn’t a virgin, which isn’t a pretty sight.

Despite awkward cuts and even more awkward acting, kudos to the movie for making a solid attempt at bringing these issues to light and motivating people to act and be part of a larger cause, joining similar documentary films like Cambodia: The Virginity Trade in seeking to change the situation. The movie, while fictional, is also grounded in extensive research done by Eunice and the crew.

While other shows use special effects or star studded casts to muscle their way into portraying a good story, 3.50 has none of those. 3.50 stands out as a movie with a purposeful message, which unfortunately, in this case,  sex sells – at a (cheap) price of a life.

Rating: 3.5/5

Release Date: 12 April 2014

Runtime: 107 minutes

Language: English, Khmer with English Subtitles

Censorship: PG-13

Genre: Dramatic Thriller

Director: Chhay Bora, Eysham Ali

Main Actors: Eunice Olsen, Oun Dyna, Leang Honglee

Photos Courtesy of 3.50 Producers