MOVIE REVIEW: Bar Boys (2017)

A film that tackles the dynamics of friendship and family towards the pursuit of one’s ambition, Kip Oebanda’s Bar Boys stirs both humor and curiosity in bringing forth the works of a courtroom drama in a behind-the-scenes black comedy.

Bar Boys follows the journey of a barkada — Torran (Rocco Nacino), Chris (Enzo Pineda), Erik (Carlo Aquino) and Josh (Kean Cipriano) — whose lives evolve from simple egotistical computer games, to their life battles of family, love affairs, internal rivalries, and peer pressure towards their trajectory on fulfilling their dreams as lawyers.

For a film to discuss a subject as heavy (and occasionally mundane to commoners like me) as life in law school, Bar Boys is a surprisingly fun treat for all audiences where one’s familiarity to legal jargons doesn’t matter. It embraces itself as a youth-oriented film than a legal docu-drama, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it shows.

The film heavily relies on archetypes — Enzo Pineda as the rich, upper class kid; Rocco Nacino as the kid who knows-it-all; Carlo Aquino as the humble, impoverished one; and Kean Cipriano as the underdog who holds on to their friendship amidst all. The overly sketched out, borderline-cliché, predictable characterizations is almost drowning, with some making hasty decisions without being established as to why so, particularly with the characters of Chris (Pineda) and Josh (Cipriano).

Enzo Pineda’s character (Chris) is a tad underwritten, emphasizing on nothing but his sophisticated facade, tainted relationship with his father and being a career-obsessed boyfriend who takes his girlfriend for granted. By the end of the film, his character then makes crucial decisions that didn’t quite match as to how he was established in the first place, as if watching two completely different characters without the justification of a proper psychological transformation from act one to act two. Moreover, Pineda had his great moments of intense, emotional monologues, but it’s almost impossible to unsee his awkward moments, perhaps from being a newcomer in a sea of de caliber, seasoned talents.

Kean Cipriano’s character (Josh), on the other hand, is the breath of fresh air. That being said, he spent so little time on screen that it felt like a missed opportunity for his character not be thoroughly used, especially in showing contrast to his own deviant world versus his friends’ academic, career-driven mindset. He could have been a great foil character that could show a veracious night and day, especially with Cipriano’s adorably candid performance.

On the contrary, Carlo Aquino and Rocco Nacino (as Erik and Torran respectively) rises to the occasion, as both actors completely steal the show with nothing but effortlessly powerful performances on different tones and hues. They are the redeeming features of the ensemble’s imperfections.

Although I thought the first act of the film gave very little to almost zero insight as to how it really is being a law student aside from the stereotypical evil professors and too-cool-for-school fraternities, act two nailed everything right off the bat. The previous sitcom-ish storyline started to become rich and thick, where all the characters start to finally reach out to the audience with their intellectual and emotional substance in a deeper and more nuanced level, and not just a set of cartoonish four-piece we’ve been seeing since the 1990s.
Overall, Bar Boys is both a hit and a miss; its intentions are genuine, but suffers a bumpy setback with how the characters are written and formulated. Nevertheless, I’d still recommend this film for its last 40 minutes of smart show with a surprising originality to say the least.


4 out of 5 stars

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