Thursday, November 22, 2018



Emotionally detached from historical events he is too young to comment on, teenager Carlo (Tony Labrusca) is always at loggerheads with his professor when it comes to Martial Law. Hoping his students would get firsthand insight through the perspective of people who lived during the regime, the professor gives them an assignment to interview someone from that generation. The first candidate that comes to Carlo’s mind is Colonel dela Cruz (Eddie Garcia), the senile ex-METROCOM officer who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease and lives in the same subdivision. His condition leads him to believe that he’s still living in that era, dressing up in his uniform from time to time while loitering the streets of the village. He invites the young man to his home where he offers him some drinks before bludgeoning him on the head and torturing him at the basement.

Psychopaths, don’t we just love them? Better than any ghost or haunted house, nothing beats a mentally unhinged mortal who is hell bent on inflicting harm. ML is a legit thriller in this regard, giving off vibes that remind you of those slasher flicks of the 90’s. It’s just too bad that the tortured protagonists have been limited in number to make everything more believable. After all, how can an old man outmaneuver two or three abled teenagers, right? More than a slasher flick, though, ML has something to prove.

And it does so with a premise that would be deemed too twisted in real life nowadays. In the advent of social media where everyone suddenly has a voice, it can be overwhelmed by opinions that can be grossly misinformed or just plain dumb. What ML does is give you a what-if scenario. What if the harsh truths of Martial Law can’t be acknowledged through textbooks or in the classrooms? After all, experience is the best teacher. Instead of showing them or telling them about it, make them experience it. Firsthand.

And that’s where the film becomes controversial. For those who did experience such atrocities in the not so distant past, seeing those acts of inhumane cruelty can indeed reopen wounds that might no longer heal. It is because of this that we can’t blame past victims for showing disdain. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that this movie does not have them in mind as the target audience. It caters more to that demographic involving the clueless millennial who thinks he knows everything about the world despite his inexperience.

This is not to condone such acts. If anything, this narrative knows how to get its target audience hooked. The film genre it uses grabs attention. If you want these teenagers to stop and look, you need to get them hooked to the material first. This is perhaps where ML and Liway, both stories about Martial Law, differ. One is autobiographical while the other is fiction based on real events. One inspires and gives hope. One scares in the hope that such atrocities will not happen again to anyone in this lifetime.

As far as acting goes, well there is nothing more to expect from Garcia. He has played a myriad of roles in his lifetime and you just know that you are watching a great actor when all you see is a frail old man who couldn’t harm a fly. Or so you thought. That makes it even more sinister, to be honest. As for Labrusca, he is a newbie with a lot left to prove. In any case, he is young and has a lot of opportunity ahead of him to do such a thing. More workshops will surely help.

ML maximizes the irony with that twist of an ending. Unpopular as it may seem, it tries to reflect what actually happened in the aftermath of Martial Law. Whether to like the ending or hate it depends on which side you are on, but in terms of creative license and tragic lack of poetic justice, it offers a punch in the gut that just hurts. Like they said, there is no justice in the world after all, and sometimes injustice can stare straight at you as if mocking your being powerless against it. ML is annoying like that.

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