Wednesday, September 11, 2013

On the Job

Two prison inmates are tasked with high-profile assassinations in exchange for cash and reduced sentences. The modus operandi is to get them out of their jail cells, have them do the dirty work, and put them back in before anyone notices. As Tatang (Joel Torre) gets ready for his retirement, which comes in the form of a parole, he grooms his successor Daniel (Gerald Anderson) for a life of cold-blooded murder. However, things do not go according to plan as the unlikely team-up between PNP sergeant Joaquin Acosta (Joey Marquez) and NBI agent Francis Coronel (Piolo Pascual) starts to get hot on their trail. A long game of cat and mouse ensues between the two pairs, but little do they know that they are just mere pawns in a bigger game of chess among the country’s corrupt top honchos, who would do everything in their power to protect their own interests.

What makes this movie exciting to watch is the combination of a true-to-life storyline and the casting of mainstream actors for something that could very well be considered as indie. You would know that you have created a critically acclaimed film when it reaps a lot of accolades abroad but bombs in the domestic box office. This is a clear indicator that OTJ is a rare cinematic gem that is worth both your time and money. Even Hollywood agrees, now that a remake is on the works.

The acting could be summed up as decent. Pascual does not really have a problem in the acting department, while Anderson is slowly getting recognized more and more for his acting chops rather than his good looks. Casting Marquez as the comic relief is effective, in that the audience would always end up both laughing at him yet admiring his character’s idealism at the same time. The one who really gets to effortlessly shine here is no other than Joel Torre himself, who gets the role of a lifetime portraying a morally ambiguous character getting most of the limelight. Strong acting from Torre aside, the other noteworthy element here would be the story itself.

Perhaps, you could even call this a mockumentary of sorts. We all know that such a thing happens in real life, albeit a bit more deglamorized than what is presented onscreen. Maybe it is this very fact that makes the movie so appealing to watch. You know there is some truth to it, but you are also aware that that truth would only stay within the confines of the reel, because the real life counterparts of the movie’s thugs would remain to be untouchable in real life. The ending is as realistic as it could ever be, nonchalantly crushing your hopes because the status quo is too stubbornly ingrained in everyone’s mindsets that any attempt to change it would just lead to martyrdom, albeit all in vain.

There is no shortage of action scenes here that would give you an adrenaline rush. The violence and the gore, however, is best left witnessed by the adults, who would be able to look beyond all that to see the truth yearning to be heard beyond every gunshot. In a country where action movies have long been dead, failing to watch such a thrilling masterpiece  would surely be a lost opportunity that you would truly regret. Erik Matti should be doing more films.

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