MOVIE REVIEW: Citizen Jake (2018)

Brilliant, riveting and unapologetic, Mike De Leon’s Citizen Jake proves everyone why he is a master storyteller. It’s a film that is worth the wait.

He who shares the oppression shares the crime.- Desiderius Erasmus

The message of Mike de Leon’s Citizen Jake is as clear as glass. We have to decipher what is rightful from what is unjust and take it from there. Truth be told, there is a Citizen Jake in all of us—always longing for answers to questions that plague our minds and our being. After all, man by nature desires to know.

The film was a riveting, unapologetic and no-holds-barred account on the life of Jake Herrera (Atom Araullo) who had a troubled childhood, reminiscing the pain of losing a mother he never heard from again after years of disappearance.Atom Araullo’s smoldering eyes were definitely captured in the film. He’s a natural. It really helped that he is a journalist in real life. Teroy Guzman’s portrayal as the father was very effective.

Teroy Guzman plays Jacobo Herrerra, Jake’s father who had a tough kind of upbringing to Jake. The young journalist never saw himself faltered when push comes to shove. Jacobo made sure he is always one step ahead of everyone else and whoever gets in the way of his ambition ends up dead through his right arm, bodyguard/hitman played by Richard Quan.

To add to his family is his equally ambitious older brother Roxie (Gabby Eigenmann) who always used a lot of reference to Mario Puzo’s novel, The Godfather. He and Jake never really got along really well because Jake had a different path to take unlike Roxie who also delved into politics because he idolized Jacobo so much. Roxie’s character was one person we really loved to hate.

The beginning of the film was creatively done introducing Araullo as Jake from the not-so-distant past: always curious, always on the lookout for juicy details no matter how difficult the circumstances for him to get it. Amidst all of this, we have Mandy (Max Colllins) who played as Jake’s girlfriend. Although they may have conflicts, Mandy made sure to stay with Jake and helped him out with whichever way possible.

And then there’s Jonie (Luis Alandy) who was Jake’s childhood friend in Baguio. I thought his role was very pivotal in the course of the story. Jonie is the son of the caretakers of Jake’s family house in Baguio. Things heat up when Grace Aspiras (Elora Españo), one of Mandy’s students, was found murdered in Baguio. The plot thickens as many believe someone is behind Grace’s untimely death. Grace was found dead, naked, possibly raped and strangled to death with signs of struggle. While Mandy was so pitiful of the death of Grace, Jake felt the need to investigate the case.

Patti Medina (Cherie Gil) was a character whose power and beauty was used interestingly in the film. Often referred to as ‘Madam,’ she was a key character to clear the investigation. Not to be outdone, Gil was flawless in her performance as a pimp.

The film had a lot of symbolisms involved with it and when examined closely enough can be understood really well. The film’s use of colors and chiaroscuro was very creative as well. I thought the story needed this kind of flavor. The use of flashbacks was on point to make people understand the story even more.

Setting fiction aside, what happened in the film is actually plausible in real life. There are rampant killings that are never resolved because of the abuse of power which is relatively common among Filipino societies. Whoever has the money can easily hide the truth and get away with it.

Power is a good thing, but when abused can have repercussions which may not be favorable to the majority. Will we ever survive this dog-eat-dog society that plague our country? That is a question that warrants a clear answer.

Will Jake triumph in the end or will his father’s evil plans take over? Your guess is just at as good as mine. Mike de Leon never failed to delivery. After an 18-year hiatus, Citizen Jake certainly is a gem we Filipinos could all be proud of.

4 out of 5 stars

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