‘On the Job’: Adrenaline shot

Carljoe Javier
Film shows off what you can do if you have the money to realize your vision

DEFINITE DARKNESS. Anderson and Torre are soused in film's atmosphere. Still courtesy of ABS-CBN

MANILA, Philippines – One of the things I had been hearing about “On the Job,” the phenomenal film directed by Erik Matti and scripted by Michiko Yamamoto, is that it’s so good it isn’t like a Filipino movie.

There are two things I would like to say in response to that, before I get into the film itself. First, it is a damn good movie. Second, it’s a sad thing that this is how we perceive Filipino movies.

There is a reason for that perception, because so much of the mainstream films that come out of the studio system are little more than passing entertainments constructed on formula and banking on whoever is hot at the moment.

But what I think is most important here is that we remember, not just through the remastering of the greats of Philippine cinema, but also through efforts like this, that our movies can be great, can be amazing experiences.

I think that, because of economic concerns and pandering to specific audiences and a plethora of other factors, a lot of local studio product has decided that it won’t try to appeal to intelligent viewers.

And, in turn, a substantial part of the local moviegoing audience has given up on local movies.

READ: The odyssey of ‘OTJ’

“On the Job” is a film that serves as a shot of adrenaline, not only to the hearts of viewers, but hopefully also to mainstream cinema.

It has the dreamy matinee idols that some viewers troop to theaters for. It comes from a major studio (which, I have to say admirably, has been releasing some good movies lately).

What’s good about it having studio backing is that it has strong production values. This film shows off what you can do if you are artistic and you have the money to realize your artistic visions.

The subject matter of the film is all too familiar to our lives. Political killings. Corruption. Poverty. People driven to extremes by their social situations.

READ: ‘OTJ’ cast speaks out on pork

They, like the system, become corrupted or co-opted. And if they don’t? Well, we know what happens too.

This movie does a lot of smart things with these elements. It decides not to bash us over the head with its themes and messages.

Instead, it frames these larger social concerns in two related and intersecting storylines which show us how high and how low in the food chain all this corruption goes.

What’s even better is that it delivers these stories in an exciting manner, keeping us at the edges of our seats and making us hold our breaths as the movie unfolds.

We begin with two hitmen, played by Joel Torre and Gerald Anderson, as they perform a hit. It’s a captivating sequence, and it establishes the film’s tone. It’s shot with a sense of urgency, washed in contrasting colors.

From here we see that the film eschews the brights of a lot of mainstream cinema, and it won’t be content with any slack in its storytelling.

We follow Torre and Anderson after the hit and we get an understanding of their lives. Another intelligent thing the film does is it shows the badassery behind being a hitman, but it doesn’t ever romanticize it or make it look cool.

Definite darkness

Parallel to their story we get Piolo Pascual’s NBI agent who is the son-in-law of a dirty congressman.

He’s ambitious and has potential for big politics, and he is slowly being brought into the fold, lured by the good life.

He struggles with the moral implications of what they do. Pascual winds up working with a lowly cop, played by Joey Marquez.

He has been chasing the ring that runs the hits, but he is frustrated at every turn by political barriers to his investigations.

The cast is outstanding. Torre has always been masterful, and here we get a showcase.

Marquez is also extremely effective. I wish I could make note of every performance here, because everyone is so good.

There is a definite darkness to this film. The atmosphere, the dialogue, the subject matter. It is relentless in its commitment to this.

It doesn’t try to dispel the darkness of our world, but it engages with it, helping us to understand the inner workings of corruption and violence, and the people who commit it.

It gives us no quarter. It makes no concessions to the audience in terms of theme and story, but it is decidedly compelling and entertaining.

Please, do yourself a favor, and go watch “On the Job.” And dear producers over at the mainstream studios: 1) thank you for this movie; and 2) please make more movies like this. – Rappler.com

Here’s the trailer:

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