Saturday, August 11, 2018

BuyBust

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is conducting a buy bust operation to smoke out big-time drug pusher Biggie Chen (Arjo Atayde). In the middle of this game of Hide and Seek between criminal and police is a squad just following orders. Nina Manigan (Anne Curtis) is still traumatized from a previous mission that saw her team decimated by the enemy. Finding it hard to put her life in someone else’s hands again, she often butts heads with platoon leader Bernie Lacson (Victor Neri), even though the rest of the team prove to be more welcoming. As they are ordered to pursue their assignment all the way to a shady shantytown, they will soon realize that they are but mere pawns in this game of chess between the country’s powers-that-be.

BuyBust starts with an interrogation scene followed by a rather lengthy military training sequence. The former establishes the storyline; the latter, the protagonist’s main character flaw. By the time the mission is announced you already have a clear idea as to what shit will go down in the next hour or so. Expectations are set and most of them are met. This is the part where we thank Erik Matti just for being active in the business. The guy is a visionary and given enough budget we all know what he is capable of, regardless if the project is made for TV or for the big screen.

I must admit I was hesitant to see this one. Simply put, there’s no such thing as a legit Filipino action film. It doesn’t help that an Indonesian movie with a similar premise called The Raid came out in 2011 and was a phenomenal success. Can BuyBust even reach the high bar already set?

It almost does, although it does not really have to. Don’t get me wrong, this is no Atomic Blonde. Even so, hands down, this will be the first action flick everyone will be pointing to when asked about the genre as far as the Philippine setting is concerned. But it’s not just Filipinos who are celebrating the drastic departure from the norm. Winning over critics at festivals abroad, there is obviously something to be seen here. Perhaps that’s what makes the film unique. It merges high-adrenaline action sequences with social relevance. The end product is a convenient marriage between poverty porn and no-nonsense violence. It can’t get any more Filipino than that.

As for the supporting roles, acting rookie Brandon Vera gets his fair share of scene-stealing moments. He lifts a freaking motorcycle and throws it at one of his attackers, for crying out loud. Guy is legit. Atayde shines as the main villain, although it can be argued that the character is reduced to a plot device to do all the mansplaining for the confused heroine, because that’s what drug lords do when cornered. They give you a lecture. In any case, there is something innately sinister about that actor.

There is a long continuous shot of Curtis jumping off rooftops while fighting off just about every soul trying to stab her or throw a punch her way. In one interview it is revealed that the scene took seven days to shoot and more than 50 takes to master. The effort obviously paid off because that sequence alone is already worth the price of the admission ticket. Some of the fight scenes are not choreographed to perfection, though. It’s just the same kind of organized chaos ubiquitous in the streets of Manila on a daily basis. Perhaps that was the intended effect after all? Watching Curtis swarmed by a gang of bloodthirsty middle-aged moms with pots and pans as weapons and not relenting at all is pure entertainment.

Speaking of the devil, this is a clear game changer for Anne Curtis. For an actress whose long filmography is littered with teenybopper and unapologetic mistress roles, this is the kind of indie flick everyone has been clamoring for her to be a part of. Why? Because we all know she has potential, yet having been molded as a Philippine sweetheart early on means almost everything she has done so far has been in the name of fan service. Here’s hoping that we’ll be seeing more of her not just in action flicks but also in the indie circuit. In an industry saturated by repetitive storylines, breaking the mold is always guaranteed to be a shock move. Shock us some more, Anne Curtis. We know you can, and we know you want to.

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