Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Lookout

A brother and his sister are sold as children by their mother to a syndicate. The siblings are forced to go their separate ways for survival, only to meet later on under not so ideal circumstances. Lester Quiambao (Andres Vasquez) grows up as a hired gun, raised with precision in handling a pistol as well as a thirst for killing by the cruel Timothy (Rez Cortez). Always one step ahead of the police force hunting him, he starts to go soft with the arrival of Travis (Jay Garcia), his gay for pay love interest who eventually becomes his reluctant lover. With several murders committed and more lies unveiled, the boys realize that acknowledging the tricky nature of the world they operate in might be their best bet to get out of it alive.

Oh man, that was bad. If you’ve been following this blog since I started writing movie reviews back in 2009, then you’d know that I rarely give anything lower than three clovers, even to recycled mainstream box office fodder deserving of such rating. The Lookout is one of the most contrived and unconvincing narratives I’ve seen in a while, and it feels downright weird seeing such material at Cinemalaya. But then again, this is my first year to actually commit to the festival. Perhaps it’s really just a mixed bag every year?

The Lookout provokes giggles and laughter for all the wrong reasons. There is no problem with that, except that this seems to be a film meant to be taken seriously, yet ends up being campy most of the time. The lines are cringe worthy and occasionally repetitive. The plot is all over the place. And then there are WTF scenes that do not make sense. Let’s elaborate on that.

1. The lines are cringe worthy and occasionally repetitive. After having sex, the characters, usually Lester and Travis, will engage in a conversation. It will always start with a socio-political commentary, but it feels like they are only talking about such themes as a botched attempt to insert some social relevance here and there. Why so? Well, because halfway through the post-coital banter the pair always goes down the mushy route, dropping cheesy love quotes that they seem to have stolen from a parody account on Twitter. And then you have Rez Cortez and Efren Reyes calling one another on the phone with their obligatory Darth Vader voices threatening each other with flowery words that you will only ever hear in a 90’s action flick.

2. The plot is all over the place. Flashback is abused as a plot device to derive empathy. There is reliance on monologue to explain motivations, which is just lazy writing and execution, to be honest. The big twist is obvious from the get go. The question is whether the writers will opt for convenience and go for it. After an hour or so of watching, you just know that they will, and they do indeed. It serves as the icing on top of a half-baked cake of a film almost collapsing from the weight of its convoluted plot elements. You are hit with a twist, and then another, and then another. This material would have been perfect in the small screen setting as a 13-week soap opera. As a big screen offering, it just doesn’t work.

3. And then there are so many WTF scenes that do not make sense. There is this scene where Lester and Travis are being chased by the police. He sees a small girl crying in a corner, who was probably just crying in a corner because that’s what kids do. It’s not like they did a cross-over with BuyBust and everyone was in imminent danger. Lester stops and remembers his sister. He then takes the kid with them, in effect kidnapping her for no apparent reason. She is never seen again in any of the later scenes. Well, maybe he wants to be a kidnapper too? He’s multifaceted like that.

And then there is that big WTF scene in the end where a guy rolls down his window, removes his hood and is revealed to be Jeffrey Santos, Judy Ann’s older brother who used to be a 90’s matinee idol. He does nothing. He literally appears 30 seconds before the movie ends just to reveal himself crying in a van. And his name is actually on the movie poster. Someone please explain.

All in all, it was an hour and a half of: onscreen gay sex and nudity that was uncomfortable to watch, not because it was homo but because it felt unnecessary and irrelevant; misplaced hysterics care of Yayo Aguila and Elle Ramirez, which could have worked somewhere else; trying hard to be gangsta/indie-gritty vibe; camp acting from Garcia and Vasquez. I’m disappointed because the first 10 minutes or so seemed really promising. Everything goes downhill after that.

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