"On the Job": Filipino Cops and Robbers Flick Gets Complicated

On the Job Clearly this gritty fatalistic crime drama is not the place to go for a flattering portrait of the Filipino justice system. While adept at giving off genre thrills, director Erik Matti evidently takes little delight in his violent true-events-inspired tale of chaos and corruption in Manila. What's most noteworthy about Matti's highly watchable leads, a weary middle-aged hitman (Joel Torre, with a soulful aura) and his cocky young apprentice (Gerald Anderson, sort of a Pinoy cross between Ben Affleck and Russell Brand), is that they're already inmates at a provincial prison, periodically released to carry out brutal killings in exchange for some shady legal leniency. Meanwhile, across town and across the law, we behold another master-protege duo — a conscionable cop (Joey Marquez) and a pretty-boy up-and-comer (Piolo Pascual), both determined to pull this malfeasance out by its roots. Yeah, good luck with that. Cross-cutting between the pairs tenses up our anticipation of their inevitable collision. Or it least it's supposed to; co-scripting with Michiko Yamamoto, Matti works his thriller playbook confidently, but it does still feel like a playbook, complete with an elaborate Godfather-esque hospital showdown. This is a film whose signature image might be a bloody middle finger in the midst of a very lethal intersection shootout.

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