I have been predicting a rapturous critical reception for Erik Matti’s latest movie, “OTJ (On The Job)“.
Did it have to do with the stark colors of the theatrical poster?
The trailer’s rather sombre tone and sinewy rock soundtrack?
Or seeing Pinoy matinee idols Piolo Pascual and Gerald Anderson step out of their comfort zones and go really gritty/grimey? (Aga Muhlach, go fire your agent. NOW.)
Again, I have been heralding this as a renaissance for Pinoy action film, finally liberating itself from the fist-to-gut barrages of the FPJ era. There are tones and angles reminiscent of Hong Kong auteur Johnnie To.
Trailer for Johnnie To’s “Drug War” (2013)
Daniel (Gerald Anderson) is a young prisoner apprenticed to Tatang, a veteran hitman (the legendary Joel Torre) who every now and then gets sprung out of jail to do random hits for the right price. Their paths cross with that of Joey Marquez, an aging cop yoked alongside Piolo Pascual’s Hotshot Rookie™ NBI agent as he investigates a corruption case whose tentacles of nefarity are said to reach all the way to Malacañang.
Which brings me to the performances of the two leads, played by Pascual and Anderson. In a previous post I wrote, I did hypothesize that Gerald, a pretty-boy who rose thru the ranks as part of a local hip-hop dance group, would have difficulty pulling it off as a young but hardened inmate-turned unwilling sidekick. Gerald somewhat recalls Jake Gyllenhaal in terms of focused intensity in this piece. On the other hand, Piolo recalls Brad Pitt for his laid-back portrayal of a promising NBI agent whose moral conflict underpins this film. Vivan Velez’s role of Thelma, the hitmen’s contact, recalls Salma Hayek in the similarly underrated Oliver Stone crime-drama Savages.
Joey Marquez in lame RoboCop spoof, “Bobo Cop”
Wasn’t expecting such a superb performance from the lead of such vehicles as “Bobo Cop”, though. It also surprised me that William Martinez, Niño Muhlach and Rosanna Roces are nearly unrecognizable in their supporting roles, while Shaina Magdayao gives a surprisingly underplayed role as the Senator’s daughter who also happens to be Pascual’s wife. It seems director Erik Matti is pulling a page out of Quentin Tarantino’s film-making book, but there are no brazen attempts at stunt casting.
For a non-horror genre Pinoy film, it is rather bloody affair (thankfully the MTRCB went easy on the gore and profanities – after all, it’s R-16); gotta be thankful that Matti resists the temptation to go after the empty thrills provided by the likes of Michael Bay or Peter Berg. In short, no gigantic CGI fireballs or shots of Luneta Park or the Makati CBD being smashed to smithereens.
Thank you, director Erik Matti, for delivering the first true Pinoy-made action film in nearly a decade.
Thank you, screenwriter Michiko Yamamoto, for a tight yet linear script that is not afraid to buck the status quo a tad bit (good luck with the planned Hollywood remake!)
Thank you, Piolo Pascual, for not chewing up scenery (even alongside young bucks like Gerald Anderson).
Thank you, Star Cinema/Reality Entertainment, for going out of a limb and delivering a variation to the saccharine youth-oriented romances/rip-off J-horrors/marital infidelity dramas starring unnaturally toned (and obviously non-Pinoy) bodies onto our screens.
Thank you, Pinoy audiences – yours truly included – for taking a chance on this lean, mean ADULT crime drama. May more films with this comparable intensity be made by our local studios!
Good Great Splendid “Job“!!!