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Filipino crime thriller inspired by a real-life scandal in which prison inmates are temporarily released from prison to work as contract killers on behalf of politicians and high ranking military officials.
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Dado C. Lumibao
Glossy biopic has no happy ending but film has polish and style.
A sweeping chronicle of the life of Andres Bonifacio, this ambitious biopic skips any elongated childhood segment (except for a young Andres watching from a crowd the garrote deaths of the three martyr priests, Fathers Gómez, Burgos and Zamora) and presents to us, without further ado, an idealistic Filipino who came to be called the "Father of the Philippine Revolution." Born in November 1863, Bonifacio led the movement called "Katipunan" (where he was called "Supremo" or supreme leader) and also a founding member of Dr José Rizal's "La Liga Filipina," an organization calling for political reforms from the Spanish colonial regime. There may be dispute about certain statements the movie makes, but Williams doesn't care and sturdily paints a narrative arc that jumps back and forth from the 1890s to the present day, where students Daniel Padilla, Anne Curtis-Smith and RJ Padilla spend time in the Museum of Philippine Political History and discuss the life of Bonifacio -- while the observant museum curator (Eddie Garcia) listens on and gives them his two cents' worth on the hero. The movie skips the first wife (who died of leprosy) and goes straight to the well-known (second) wife, Gregoria de Jesus, 18-years-old at the time of Andres' courtship. Vina Morales gives a spirited performance as Oryang, as the movie shows Oryang ready to lay her life for country, held in check only by the worried Andres. (Later, which the movie barely tackles, Oryang would be the founder and vice-president of the women's chapter of the Katipunan). Robin Padilla, despite his habitual swagger and sometimes self-conscious mugging, tries for an earnest performance of Bonifacio, making us root for the character despite the blatant future failure (of an expected leadership) staring him in the face. Williams' movie makes no bones about who the enemies are; two, in particular. The Spanish colonizers, and a rather traitorous Emilio Aguinaldo (Jun Nayra) and his underlings (Mon Confiado, et al). The movie is engrossing, if you can overlook Padilla's shticks and swagger, but certain key roles are frustratingly brief (Joem Bascon as Emilio Jacinto, Junjun Quintana and Cholo Barretto and Procopio Bonifacio and Ciriaco Bonifacio, Ping Medina as Diwa, Isabel Oli as Nonay, Lou Veloso as Tatang), while the cameo roles are amusing (Isko Moreno as Burgos, Rommel Padilla, Daniel Padilla's father, as Gómez, Dennis Marasigan as Zamora). Richard Quan lends solid support as Plata, who falls in love with Andres' sister Nonay. Shining in his brief role as Dr José Rizal is Jericho Rosales, but this very famous hero disappears all too soon from the movie (maybe just as well, for Rizal and his life has been tackled, examined and chronicled to death, excuse the pun). Also, teen sensation Daniel Padilla, arguably one of the hottest young stars today, feels like an afterthought (as does Ms Jasmine Curtis- Smith); perhaps the planned Gregorio del Pilar biopic will give the young Padilla a better spotlight). The overall respectful tenor of this glossy biography film, scripted by Williams, Carlo Obispo and Keiko Aquino, makes it work as a political biopic. This particular biography has no happy ending, for sadly, Bonifacio was betrayed and ganged upon. Carlo Mendoza (MMFF winner) moodily photographs the film, with beautiful shots of Pagsanjan and the houses of Las Casas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan. This film also also won Best Festival Sound Engineer, Best Musical Scoring by Juan De Guzman and Best Original Theme Song by Von De Guzman (as well as the MMFF FPJ Memorial Award for Film Excellence, the Youth Choice Award and the Gatpuno Antonio Villegas Cultural Award). (During the Float Parade, this film also won Best Float). Let's leave the historical quibbles and disputes to people like Ambeth Ocampo, Guillermo Gómez Rivera and other historians; just enjoy Williams and Padilla's joint effort (they plan to also make a movie about Gregorio del Pilar). Kudos, Robin and Enzo!
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