There might be a spike in gym membership these few days after cinemagoers see Shaheizy Sam’s character Khai peeling his shirt off to reveal a physique packed with sprawling muscles during a locker room scene in Polis Evo.

But the actor says his buff bod came with a price.

“Throughout the movie, I was on Atkins Diet – zero carbs. If you have no carbs, you have no energy. So I have been working without carbs, only with protein and fibre,” he says during a press event to promote the show.

“I could feel myself shaking.”

Polis Evo, an action flick produced by Astro Shaw which has earned over RM2.5mil in the cinemas within four days since it opened last week, revolves around the relationship between two cops from diverse backgrounds who must work together to end a drug syndicate in Terengganu.

Shaheizy, 33, plays the cold, unfeeling Khai, from Kuala Lumpur who has devoted his entire life to his work. Over the years, he has gotten so good at what he does, he’s nicknamed a “supercop.”

“How do I portray a police who gets to the point of being called a ‘supercop’? He has to be really good. So the main challenge is to make Khai look good physically and mentally,” says the actor who trained at the gym for five months prior to filming.

Shaheizy Sam and Zizan Razak in Polis Evo.

Shaheizy Sam and Zizan Razak in Polis Evo.

Shaheizy doesn’t mind changing his physical appearance in order to portray a character effectively, even stating if he had to drastically lose weight for a role, citing Christian Bale’s turn in The Machinist as an example, he would.

Meanwhile, his co-star Zizan Razak had to put to work another kind of muscle – his tear glands. Yes, the country’s top comedian is playing a dramatic role, Sani, in Polis Evo. He is a kind, polite and responsible cop from Terengganu who inevitably clashes with Khai when the latter gets transferred to the East coast state to help Sani on the case.

“The most difficult thing was when I had to cry in a scene; I’m not the kind of guy who cries easily,” 31-year-old Zizan dishes.

“I had been rehearsing and rehearsing the scene, and then Shaheizy pats me on the back and advises me and explains what my character’s motivations are. He’s really good.”

While Sani is a serious character, he is also the source of the film’s many light-hearted moments. Zizan explains: “I don’t deliberately make jokes in the movie but the jokes are pushed out subtly.”

Set in Terengganu, Polis Evo features the sights and sounds of the picturesque state, including its villages, towns and crystal blue shorelines.

“I wanted to put the traditional elements of Terengganu on display so that people from outside our country can see what’s different about our action film. They have so many action films in America already,” director Ghaz Abu Bakar says.

Ghaz also responded to a comparison made between the film and Romeo Kota (released early this year) which also centres on the relationship between two cops: “The buddy cop concept may be the same but Polis Evo has almost 80% action scenes, while Romeo Kota focuses a lot more on its characters and humour.”

The actors, who used real guns and weaponry in the film, were trained on shooting and on police etiquette with the help of the Royal Malaysia Police.

“You see cops in Hollywood films hold a gun by pointing it upwards, but in real-life, you actually point them downwards,” Zizan shares.

Asked if there was a sense of rivalry, what with two big stars sharing a movie, the comedian responds: “Ghaz did a good job in making sure we were both given equal parts to play.”

Shaheizy offers: “If an actor is a professional, he doesn’t even know what the term ‘overshadow’ means. He is serious with his own work and if he’s good, people will notice him.”