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

Feel-good barkada movie ‘Bar Boys’ uncovers secret lives of law students

“Bar Boys,” a feel-good barkada movie starring heartthrobs Rocco Nacino, Carlo Aquino, Enzo Pineda and Kean Cipriano, presents the real lives of law students in the Philippines. This motion picture written and directed by young filmmaker Kip Oebanda is one of the 12 films in the lineup of the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) which happens from August 16 to 22.

Direk Kip spent more than a year researching for the project, talking with law students, graduates and dropouts from different schools; interviewing professors and judges; sometimes even sitting in actual law classes. “It helped that I was not a law student so I was able to look into their world from an outsider’s point of view,” says Direk.

“Bar Boys” tells the stories of four friends who all wanted to go to law school. Rocco plays a happy-go-lucky fellow whose family is always proud of whatever he achieves. Carlo’s character comes from a simple family who goes to great lengths just to keep him in school. Enzo takes on the role of a guy who must live up to the legacy of his lawyer-father and whose conflict deals with choosing between his studies and his girlfriend. Kean’s character, meanwhile, feels left out because he is the only one in the group who failed to make it to law school.

One of the film’s themes is about sacrifices. “It’s about sacrificing sleep, family, health, love, and even friends,” Direk Kip says of “Bar Boys.”

The four male leads bonded well with their co-stars, such as indie sensation Anna Luna and veteran character actress Odette Khan (who plays a terror professor).

Award-winning film editor Manet Dayrit, one of members of the PPP selection committee, describes “Bar Boys” as an eye-opener. She says, “We liked ‘Bar Boys’ because it’s a look into the unique world of law students. If you are not aware, students taking up law in the Philippines have a different set of problems. Not only do they go through the usual angst, love life, challenges of studying and pressures coming from the family, they also have terror teachers.”

She also praised the cast saying, “The ensemble cast of the four barkadas was well chosen.” She adds that even those who did not take up law will be able to relate to what the Bar Boys go through. “I think all young students, as well as those who’ve finished school a long time ago, will appreciate the film. University life evokes bittersweet memories. ‘Bar Boys’ certainly gives that feeling.”

As a testament to the movie’s strong appeal, about 50 different groups from all over the country—ranging from schools to fans’ clubs, to college organizations, to law firms— have confirmed block screenings.

Direk Kip hopes that his film will somehow contribute to the current evaluation of Philippine law schools. “The amount of readings that law students go through, for instance, is astounding… There are a lot of conversations on the level of school deans about how to reform the law schools,” says Direk Kip.

“Bar Boys is produced by TropicFrills Film Productions in cooperation with Wild Sound Studios. The film received generous support from SM Foundation Inc. It is rated “A” by the Cinema Evaluation Board.

Opening across the Philippines on August 16, 2017, “Bar Boys” is distributed by Quantum Films.

WATCH: Barkada movie ‘Bar Boys’ explores friendship in law school

Bar Boys is a drama-comedy about four best friends who enter the difficult world of law schools where they are forced to make sacrifices for success: sleep, relationships, family and one another.

The film stars Rocco Nacino, Kean Cipriano, Carlo Aquino and Enzo Pineda. It is written and directed by Kip Oebanda (‘Tumbang Preso’) and produced by SM Cinemas.

Joining the cast are Anna Luna, Mailes Kanapi, Sebastian Castro, Hazel Faith de la Cruz, Pontri Bernardo, Maey Bautista, Rener Concepcion, Irene Celebre, Vance Larena, Lharby Policarpio and Ms. Odette Khan.

Here is the teaser trailer for Bar Boys which will open soon exclusive to SM Cinemas: