'Dukot' review: Too safe
Paul Soriano’s Dukot is interesting in premise.
Based on a true story, the film centers on the kidnapping of Carlo (Enrique Gil), the son of Charlie Sandoval (Ricky Davao), a customs official who is hounded by allegations of corruption.
Dukot begins as a promising look at a society whose diverse social classes are united by the evils of corruption. However, it devolves into a simplistic morality play where the central event becomes nothing more than a fated comeuppance that provokes a crowd-pleasing but less challenging change of heart for its distressed characters.
Perhaps the best thing about the film is how it initially refuses to paint its characters as either faultless victims or evil perpetrators.
With the exception of Carlo, his sister Cathy (Shaina Magdayao), and their mother Cecille (Bing Pimentel), everybody in the film is painted grey, all with observable hints of virtues and vices.
Charlie, while introduced as someone who has been calloused by years of working within a system that tolerates bribes and payolas, is pictured as a determined family man who will do everything to save his son from harm.
Inversely, Carlo’s kidnappers (Ping Medina and Alex Medina) are depicted as family men who have been pushed into crime by sheer desperation. Sure, they are played by the Medina brothers as both brash and obnoxious. However, there is at least some sort of effort to add a certain arc into the characters that would make the film less about the personal evils of fictional characters and more about the pervading culture of exploitation that urges men to commit wrongdoings.
Sadly, it is this promise of some level of character complexity that makes the film’s trajectory towards being just another parable of men changing for the better so frustrating.
Dukot isn’t all too eager to stray too far from conventions.
The film had a chance to tackle graver things, but instead, it preferred to tread the path of less resistance. This is to turn itself into what essentially is a feel-good tale of erring individuals who learn to correct their ways out of fated circumstance.
The film’s ample effort in establishing a very realistic setting involving true-to-life continuing events that involve very current societal concerns is diminished by its inability to go for the jugular – to viciously show how bleak society really is and that all the events that have unfolded are but symptoms of a culture where evil is cycled and shared among social classes.
Good enough thriller
Thankfully, Soriano has crafted a good enough thriller. Absent the promise of its setup for a vaster relevance, Dukot is actually a firmly composed crime flick.
There are moments in the film where emotions evidently overwhelm, with the stakes and urgencies adequately portrayed, and all the actors playing their parts with believable earnestness. There are a lot of heavy-handed metaphors, but the film’s visual style, which does not shy away from showcasing violence and ugliness, more than makes up for those indulgences.
The film’s failure really lies in its misdirected ambitions. It only provokes partially, quickly retreating from its hefty provocations just when the opportunity to get darker and more vicious opens up.
Again, it’s all interesting in premise. Everything else is just too safe. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ Tirad Pass. Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios