SYNOPSIS: An elite team of police operatives must fight their way out of the slum for an overnight survival against the drug syndicate and mad slum dwellers after a supposed drug buy-bust operation went south. Just that.
The GOOD As expected, Erik Matti accomplished in delivering the goods in terms of the technical aspects of the film. In a couple of hours I experienced a cinematic brilliance which is unfortunately a rare commodity in Pinoy movies specially on action flicks, then and now. The visually violent, overly chaotic and dominantly dark ambiance of the film throughout the duration are never a downside; instead I was visually enthralled by the great production design or the entirety of this craft. The realistic creation of a makeshift ghetto-like environs, exceptional (panning) camerawork, clever use of lighting, fiercely choreographed/executed close quarters combats and the application of sporadic torrential rains, are much to my delight. But what really captivated me (though not as a pleasant surprise) was its ambient score, raising more the bar of fascination on the already intense fight scenes as the masterfully orchestrated mixed musical instruments prominently played in the background is an absolute gem. It was indeed quite an engrossing experience.
The BAD While my praises for this movie are aplenty, it is unfortunate that my displeasures are likewise in abundance. This, despite my suspension of disbelief on several scenes, and for it falling "way" short from Erik Matti's internationally-acclaimed masterpiece, "On The Job", contrary to my hope and expectation. Here are "some" of the following:
1. COMEDIC INSERTIONS - While I'm a fan of adding light humor on a serious film for cinematic balance, most of the comedic punchlines here, to me, are "arguably" forced and cheap (presumably to accommodate the "telenovela" crowd). Instead, it made me cringe in dissent rather than provide me the intended comic relief. Take for instance on the opening torture scene. The captured bad guy "pleaded for mercy" from further harm from his captor-policemen, but shortly thereafter after some cheesy dialogues, he changes tune and menacingly "taunt" his "inflictor" turning himself now like a mindless captive. Though subjective, this, to me, is totally unnecessary, aside from defying logic and reason, specially on an opening scene of a seriously-themed movie where momentum can easily be drawn backward instead of the supposed intended direction. Disappointing, at the onset eh! Red flag spotted this early, Direk?!
2. UNDERCOVER COP - In one scene, a covert cop, along with his fellow secret agents, was seen in the busy crowd of bystanders and peddlers at the park where the supposed buy-bust takes place. He is presumed to be undetectable (or so, to say the least), right? Not here, for even an untrained eye can easily spot him on. WHY??? Because he was wearing a scarlet-colored shirt, a white half mask (like surgical mask), a lousy hat, and yes, a pair of sunglasses at nighttime, defeating altogether the ultimate purpose of getting unnoticed by supposedly "blending" well with the crowd. Ain't that a damn giveaway Direk? I learned later, as credit rolls, that you have a number of consultants, including a policeman, but why this glaring blunder? Tsk...tsk.. Whew!
3. DERANGED SLUM DWELLERS? - If you think these elite police operatives will have the exclusivity of adversaries of the drug syndicate here, you are dead wrong because the somehow deranged (and zombie-like) slum dwellers, in less convincing reason, joined the fray appearing (and disappearing) in bunches on sporadic occasions and threw everything within reach, to include the kitchen sink (pun intended) unmindful of a certain death in the process. Just damn bloody chaotic. No more, no less.
4. ACTING - While the actors' portrayals here can easily pass the mark with Erik Matti at the helm, I take particular notice on Anne Curtis' emotional progression as what the story demands. Yes, she was convincing at the start but as the film reaches the 2nd act, where they were fighting for their dear lives after the botched buybust operation unfolds, I felt less sense of emotion of fear on an impending death despite knowing her equally-skilled fellow agents are already dying one by one. She even had a cheesy relaxing moment with her fellow surviving male agent whom she applied first aid care during a brief lull.
5. TIRING - After indulging myself on heavy fight scenes and crafty camerawork, I became less engrossed as the film reaches halfway through as it offers nothing more but tedious shooting, boxing, kicking, stabbing, and the like, all in excess and intemperance, that I even made twice casual visits at the restroom without missing any single significant detail of the film.
6. PLOT TWIST - There's none. The story is devoid of complexity that you can easily foretell way ahead from the very start on how it will end. The futile attempt to have one at the climax, where bosses are revealed to be the rats in the police organization made me grin mischievously rather than freeze myself in utter surprise and disbelief (It doesn't have to be like those films of M. Night Shyamalan, just a bit of "oh i-didn't-see-that-coming" feeling will do). Well, unless if this is part of the humor then I can easily give this a pass (pun intended). Ouch!
My VERDICT There are several claims that this movie is a knockoff of this and that film but to me, this movie is mildly (if not heavily) referenced to the style of the great Quintin Tarantino. It also has the touch of the Coen brothers' approach. And if you just watched Deadpool 2, then you can easily tell Erik Matti, "gotya, Direk!) To sum it up, on entertainment value this movie is just watchable, though it has the potential to be at par with its predecessor, "On The Job". Just keep your hopes and expectations low...and yes, you must suspend disbelief, and you're good to go.
Just my two cents.