“There is no way out,” was all I could say just as the movie developed and bloomed into reality.
On the Job, a Filipino action-thriller film, directed by Erik Matti, along with main actors Joel Torre, Gerald Anderson, and Piolo Pascual, as co-produced by Star Cinema and Reality Entertainment, dumbfounded viewers (with their predisposed notion of commercial Filipino films). The movie was simply outstanding for a Filipino action-thriller as it gave away a different taste of story, cinematography, acting, and all the reflection of reality.
I was never a fan of action movies. But my intrigue for what is progressively Filipino in films or in the arts in general makes me go for it. It all started with a good review in social networking sites. It was said to be very much like the “indie” but this time set on mainstream cinema. And I finally got the chance and the impulse to see it.
Grungy, sultry, sweaty, dark, gloomy, languid, distasteful, practically real, and realistically Manila. What was rather a happy and massively pleasing to the viewers was turned about by this film. A set in cells, a shot in the streets, and an up-close capture of the urban poor village just made everything spot-on and well-meshed with the story. That feel of disgust is simply an understatement and more of a compliment because that is what the film was aiming for. The sound just made it eclectic and new.
Two actors stood out for me: Joel Torre and Piolo Pascual. They were just natural actors, and that’s it. The expression on Torre’s face with much anger and loathing, and Pascual’s seemingly protagonist and messianic feel were just the effective elements in acting. They were well-controlled actors of the lot. The rest played their roles accordingly, and it was right enough to set the mood for the leads to play around. However, Gerald Anderson was slightly off with the characterization. He looked okay and adaptable to the environment. But he was fluctuating in scenes. There were times that he just played it right, at certain scenes, he played it too nice (making him seem naive and not so in the scene), and there were parts that he remained playful rather than active. There could have been a better actor for this.
PLOT & SCREENPLAY
For someone who can’t seem to grappled the “business” in crime, it would all be effective as the film unfolds rather than preempts for the audience. It was unclear right from the start as the story is plotted scene by scene. It was like going through a journey of some sort that in the end, made a good bigger story Michiko Yamamoto, as part of the screenplay, aced it again, and it’s seemingly reminiscent of the Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros in terms of the language, the interspersing of stories, and the progression to the end.
What made the story effective was that it made the audience feel everything in reality is a cycle and a trap. There is no way out of the system. It’s sustained and maintained no matter what. What struck me the most was the idea of democracy (well, just to sound a bit higher in discussion) being the mask of autocracy. It made me think how such system may not only be applicable in the country but elsewhere. And this evoking of emotion simply proves the screenplay to be one of the best in Filipino cinema.
The movie was well meshed altogether, except for some small parts, but the general feel and view to it just compensates the rest. I would like to share my general views rather as a consequence to such production:
1. Filipino has the bullet for great films, bring back Lino Brock just to be retrospective. Erik Matti was stellar. But I just believe the industry, directors and producers especially, have the guts to produce films that don’t necessarily eat up what is commercial.
2. The indie can either be mainstreamed, immersed, or mixed with the mainstream to create a new standard for Filipino films. I am just a fan of Yamamoto right from the moment I saw Magnifico, the only film that made me cry out of the profundity of the theme and the story. This is rather an innovative step for Filipino film production to let the rest in the industry think out of the old, commercial box.
3. Popular acting is not necessarily tantamount to quality acting. What is set in soap operas and or chick flicks may not necessarily be good in mature films. It’s all in the actors themselves, and there are but a select few to mention.
4. There is nothing wrong or hellish about the “real,” messy, and rustic Philippine reality. We should take advantage of this, and take a stand in films, not to profit, but to incite people, to realize and not just to be entertained, to be moved and not just to be glazed with too much sweetness of mere laughter and the typical notion of a feel-good film.
5. Probably, this is more personal to me. But the film was inciting. I do believe that change can come in movies, as one medium. And this will lead to change, not in the abrupt system overhaul, but in how people perceive the ordinary. We can never change what has always been institutionalized (corruption, entrepreneurial politics, business of power and authority), but the collective ideals and realizations may actually make a difference.
Hat off to this film!