"Anak ng Kumander" is easy to dismiss as just another Filipino action movie that doesn't offer anything new to the table. And it's hard to imagine how it would pull in audiences even with all the events surrounding the film (not the least of all star and co-producer Manny Pacquiao's shenanigans with co-star Ara Mina). An unconvincing jingoistic picture with melodramatic hogwash marked by tedious moralization, "Anak ng Kumander" is a slog that adds up to not much more than an empty affair in the ongoing Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).
Philippine boxing idol Pacquiao plays Ka Iden, the leader of a viligante group in Basilan who puts to his brand of justice who has wronged the townsfolk. The mayor of the town (Efren Reyes Jr.), who is predictably corrupt, has placed a P10 million reward to anyone who can capture or kill Iden. Ara Mina plays a TV reporter assigned to Iden's case while Valerie Concepcion is a member of the rebel group.
Directed by Jose "Kaka" Balagtas, "Anak ng Kumander" is unconvincing in virtually all aspects. Its moral, which is all but mauled into its audiences, states how a man who lives by his principles could spark a national revolution and create transofrmation. While such an idea is all well and good, the notion of subtlety in storytelling is bypassed in favor of beating home the point with excessive mawkish sentiment.
It doesn't help that the screenwriters prove entirely feckless at establishing and developing its characters. The cloying final act might have held more resonance had the viewer been provided with enough opportunity to care about the people involved in the story. As it is, Pacquiao's characters is a monotonous cipher whose background and motivation are paced in a quick processor in favor of a whole lot of inept action scenes in the jungle and a lot more of moral mumbo-jumbo. The dialogue, while not becoming a classic howler as Balagtas' previous outing "Apoy sa Dibdib ng Samar" ("Saging lang ang may puso!"), still finds shards of laugh-inducing moments. Technically, the film suffers with ill-placed split-screen effects, an unmemorable score, distracting camera movements, and some blurred shots.
In his second leading role in a feature film (what, you don't remember 2005's "Lisensyadong Kamao"?), Manny Pacquiao should think about focusing on boxing. His recent foray into politics did not end as a success and his venture into film production seems treading the same path. Pacquiao's rendering of his paper-thin role is so uninspired as to almost feel like another supporting character rather than a lead performer, and his dramatic scenes are done so laughably bad. Ara Mina is every bit Pacquiao's equal. As for poor Valerie Concepcion, she just goes through the motions of the script, trying to achieve a look of a lethal female with guns, but she just isn't cut out for it.
If there is something good to be found, it is that "Anak ng Kumander" is at least filled with some humor (mostly unintentional) and, if you're up to those sort of films, you can at least laugh at it and say that it's not an entirely unwatchable affair.
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