On the Job

On the Job 1

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 6:30pm
Center for Korean Studies Auditorium

Philippines (2013, 121 min)

Director: Erik Matti
Writers: Erik Matti, Michiko Yamamoto
Cast: Joel Torre, Gerald Anderson, Piolo Pascual, Joey Marquez

Action director Erik Matti’s far-reaching foray into the unchanging state of Philippine corruption is nestled not in the distant but expository tradition that drew for filmmakers like Brillante Mendoza and Jeffrey Jeturian a certain level of acclaim. Matti intelligently pulls away from Brocka’s social realism, leaving the style and purpose to the many Filipino filmmakers who mix their cinema with some level of journalistic purpose. Matti is clearly an entertainer. On the Job is thoroughly enjoyable, replete with scenes and sequences that are precisely conjured to thrill and excite. Underneath the numerous pleasures it generously serves however is an unflinching observation, aptly pessimistic and bleak, of a society that has become oblivious of the decay that has invaded the lowest of its lows and the highest of its highs.

On the Job tells the stories of several players in an elaborate scheme that enunciates the very rotten core of a government that seems to thrive in crime and intrigue. Francis Coronel (Piolo Pascual) an honest investigator who unknowingly marries into a political family with shady connections, ends up with a murder case file conveniently snatched from Joaquin Acosta (Joey Marquez), a low-ranking cop who has been slaving on the case and other similar cases for years, with the help of his influential father-in-law. The perpetrators of the murder, Tatang (Joel Torre) and his overeager trainee Daniel (Gerald Anderson), are prisoners whisked away from their cells every time a target needs to be disposed of. Between Coronel and Tatang are various other personalities, loved ones and protectors, all of whom enlarge the risks and stakes.

The screenplay is written by Matti with Michiko Yamamoto, who penned Maryo J. de los Reyes’ Magnifico (2003) and Aureaus Solito’s Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, 2005), all of which are films whose underlying observations on society’s ills are masked in their endearing depictions of humanity’s goodness.

On the Job seems to be Matti’s defiant contribution to the on-going debate between the Philippines’ commercial and artistic cinemas. With the film, he marries the merits of the two seemingly opposing camps, infusing his sharp social commentaries within a style and aesthetic that suit more mainstream intentions. Evidently, Matti’s risks have paid off. His tireless crusade in developing a filmmaking culture that equally values content and craftsmanship has finally culminated in a piece of work that douses all the doubts and suspicions hounding both sides of the tired debate. On the Job is not satisfied in what pundits consider a safe and viable middle-ground. It opts to simply just move forward, always consistent to an aesthetic that is both true to the filmmaker and not manufactured simply to please a market. -Francis Cruz, oggsmoggs.blogspot

NOTE: This film contains lots of violence and coarse language!

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