MANILA, Philippines – ER Ejercito’s relationship with the movie industry has always been tenuous at best. His willingness to fund the most audacious of productions has only been exacerbated by his need to star in them.
But while his previous Metro Manila Film Festival entries such as El Presidente and Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story have been lackluster, Ejercito has finally produced a gem of a film that is worthy of the time, labor, and budget he has afforded it.
Boy Golden is a cartoonishly violent retelling of one of the most notorious gangsters of the 1960s: Arturo “Boy Golden” Procuna. While Procuna’s name has since slipped into relative obscurity over the years, Boy Golden still holds the title as one of the most feared and violent criminals to walk the streets of Manila.
The story throws us into the thick of the action, with Boy Golden (Ejercito) in hot pursuit of his nemesis Tony Razon (John Estrada). When Golden allies himself with the seductive but deceptively headstrong Marlady (KC Concepcion), they find themselves on a mission to take Razon down or die trying.
The art of action
Boy Golden is a wild mix of Dick Tracy with a heavy serving of Quentin Tarantino. This may sound like ridiculously high praise for an action comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s the film’s unpretentious take on crime and violence that gives the film its unique flavor.
Although the film is based on real-world individuals, director Chito Roño takes creative liberties with the film’s historical accuracies. But anyone looking to Boy Golden for a history lesson is seriously misled.
While it definitely wouldn’t be Ejercito’s first time as an action star, this would arguably be his finest. Boy Golden’s intentionally campy and over-the-top action sequences are easily one of the best in recent years (already considering the release of the much celebrated On the Job earlier this year). And leading lady KC Concepcion isn’t afraid to drop her own gauntlet when the need calls for it.
In one particularly astounding action scene, Concepcion goes mano-a-mano with a feisty, cheongsam-wearing prostitute. The results, as you may have guessed, are as entertaining as they are flat out ridiculous.
The color and the characters
While action and humor are definitely one of the film’s many highlights, Roño and cinematographer Carlo Mendoza gamble on an aesthetic that pays off in spades. The film’s overtly flamboyant colors are as alarming as the violence on screen, and only help with the film’s cartoon-like appeal.
The characters themselves also carry their own kind of color, not only in their wardrobe and make-up but in their personality and characterization. Eddie Garcia, Gloria Sevilla, Leo Martinez, and Baron Geisler just make a few of the many characters that populate the world of Boy Golden, and every single one of them provide a performance worthy of their reputation, regardless of their screen time.
But Concepcion is easily the film’s ace in the hole. Often typecast as the rich girl with attitude, she plays to wonderful perfection the role of a ball-breaking, gun-toting Marlady. It’s a much-needed refresh for Concepcion’s career as an actor, and proof that sometimes an artist need only the right role and the right director to truly shine.
Going out with a bang
Boy Golden admittedly suffers from an exhaustingly long running time, with a final act that feels more gratuitous than satisfying. And while the film does provide a satisfying amount of action scenes and clever punch lines, it’s hard to dismiss the fact that Boy Golden feels far above the pay grade of the usual MMFF fanfare. Even then, viewers who appreciate the film’s humor and action will undoubtedly be hungry for more.
The jury is still out on whether Boy Golden will finally break Ejercito’s box-office curse. Though the film isn’t likely to have the mass appeal it requires, it’s a sobering fact that some of our country’s best films are those that slip under the public’s radar.
Boy Golden doesn’t carry with it the commentary and insight that most of our nation’s more notable films so openly flaunt; but it does have something better.
It has fun. And it has a violent, colorful, and masterful way of showing it.
Watch the trailer here:
Zig Marasigan is a freelance screenwriter and director who believes that cinema is the cure for cancer. Follow him on Twitter at @zigmarasigan.
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