‘Kuwaresma’ review: Erik Matti’s arthouse horror features delusions of grandeur

Kuwaresma has style and powerhouse performances to spare but its plot crumbles under the weight of its ambitions.

Erik Matti’s latest avenue for arthouse horror, Kuwaresma, is pure aesthetic all the way through. It has style to spare – from its grim production values to its elegant camerawork, the unsettling atmosphere is already palpable within its first minutes. From a visual standpoint, the horror components may be familiar, but it’s sophisticated execution makes it worthy of a double-take. In here, the decrepit ancestral house serves as a symbolical backdrop of the many skeletons that the film aims to uncover. Individually, the associated subtexts make their impacts. Collectively, however, it’s a struggle as the film bites more so than it can chew.

Set in a distant looking 80’s Baguio, a young college lad Luis Fajardo (Kent Gonzales) returns to his patriarchal driven household upon the untimely death of his sister Manuela (Pam Gonzales). Both his parents Arturo (John Arcilla) and Rebecca (Sharon Cuneta) simply say that she’s inflicted with a terminal disease which forced her to commit suicide out of despair. But as far as horror mysteries go, we know that it’s not true. The mournings soon turn into hauntings and Luis is eventually confronted with dark family secrets and malevolent forces that inhabit within the walls of their house. Unlike Matti’s Seklusyon, there’s not much religious superstition fanfare going on here. The film’s title (Lent in english) has a slim relevance to the plot, save for the fact that Manuela is buried during the lenten week, a time when it said that the devil has the greatest potential to tempt mankind.

Tapping into the spiritual realm. Kent Gonzales (Luis) and Guila Alvarez (Salve) performs a ritual.

For one, Kuwaresma could have benefited from a more active protagonist. It’s a tough job to stand toe to toe among two veteran actors and newcomer Gonzales does fine in displaying the confusion and resentment required for the role. His character, however, only kicks into his senses by the second act. In the meantime, the film takes its baby steps in unraveling the secret by favoring on long drawn spooky sequences which contribute little to propel the plot. “What’s outside is inside. Never go inside,” Guila Alvarez’s psychic character offers Luis a vague warning. She seems like a rational person but why can’t she be more direct on what she’s trying to say? For theatrical purpose I guess.

The Fajardo family dines in awkward silence in ‘Kuwaresma.’

With little crumbs of information to lead the way, Kuwaresma can feel dragging. The intense musical scoring and sound design, infused with eccentric foreign chants tend to annoy at some point. Thankfully, the amount of jumpscare is justified to show overall restraint. In one remarkable dinner scene, the horror is merely mirrored through camera pans and facial expressions. Standard scares aside, there’s a lot of themes to be mined from the dysfunctional family in question. The film takes jabs at different forms of delusions of grandeur – how childhood traumas can suppress one’s memory and alter one’s perception. It also works as a commentary on the dangers of apathy in a time of crisis, on abusive relationships, on misogyny and toxic masculinity (albeit the supernatural element involved waters down this effect). As a portrait of family split by a tragedy, there’s an unbearable tension that haunts you for a moment.

Dark secrets hide beneath the Fajardo’s family history.

Matti and co-screenwriter Katski Flores’s show hints of thoughtfulness in their screenplay best exemplified by the oblivious hints peppered along the way, but not enough focus is given to where it mattered the most. As Kuwaresma dives into a crazy third act, the narrative gets dumped with hammy expositions and big reveals – one of which feels unnecessary and unconvincing from a logical standpoint. Counting in the film’s deliberate willingness to leave some questions unanswered, the conclusion leaves you more bewildered than frightened.

If anything else, Kuwaresma remains to be a fantastic display of powerhouse performances. Cuneta blends into the background as a timid mother who gets to take control by the third act. At times she feels overqualified as her presence tends to tip the genre to a melodramatic territory, but nevertheless, her acting prowess is what will attract viewers in the first place. The real showstopper here is the great John Arcilla who terrifyingly portrays his character’s unhinged descent into madness, with so much grit and intimidation that he literally starts to drool in one scene. It’s a fiery performance that rivals Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance in The Shining.

John Arcilla (Arturo) personifies the devil in ‘Kuwaresma.’

As Matti’s playground for his clever practical effects and filmmaking skills, Kuwaresma is a fascinating piece of art. For a haunting family tale, however, it tries to be many things at once that the narrative crumbles under the weight of ambitions. It’s not entirely a bad film especially if you’re into edgy and sensational work. Just don’t expect for a logical conclusion.

3 out of 5 stars
Directed by Erik Matti, written by Katski Flores and Erik Matti, ‘Kuwaresma’ stars Sharon Cuneta, Arturo Fajardo, Kent Gonzales, Guila Alvarez, Pam Gonzales and Jovit Moya. Run time: 118 minutes. R-13.

‘BuyBust’ review: Mind-searing desperation and damnation in the hellish slums of Manila

Erik Matti’s ‘BuyBust’ could just be the catalyst in the second coming of Philippine action films.

Looking at Erik Matti’s acclaimed body of work (2013’s On The Job and 2015’s Honor Thy Father), it’s safe to say that violence has always been a driving force in his brand of filmmaking. Whereas social media can easily desensitize netizens from topical issues, a heightened sense of violence in movies should arrest their attention and restore back their empathy. With a body count that rivals a Game of Thrones episode, BuyBust is clearly a film on violence in the form of extrajudicial killings.

Interestingly, the film puts you in an odd position as you find yourself rooting for the cops committing murderous acts. Still, it strikes a balance as no character, down to its bit players, gets an untarnished moral compass. No side is demonized to a fault… right up until that blindsiding and chilling finale where Matti reveals that he has not taken a neutral stance all along. He makes a bold statement and takes no prisoners with it. Whether you agree with him or not is one thing, but having huge balls to speak your mind is another thing. The result is quite impressive.

Anne Curtis as PDEA police officer Nina Manigan. Photo via Viva Films and Reality Entertainment.

BuyBust is mostly told in the perspective of police officer Nina Manigan (Anne Curtis), a rookie in supervisor Bernie Lacson’s (Victor Neri) elite anti-narcotic squad. She’s a lone survivor who has developed a cynical and untrusting attitude after her old squad was betrayed by a mystery figure named ‘Judas’. This time, her new team’s assignment is to apprehend a drug lord named Biggie Chen (another mystery name that will be thrown around) and soon they find themselves walking blindly into the den of Gracia ni Maria. It’s the most dangerous place in Manila and one character affirms it: “when hell was unleashed, all evil decided to live there.”

Nina’s gut instinct starts screaming that this might be a suicide mission and she’s right. Once they realized that they are being set up, the squad’s objective changes from entrapment to purely survival. They have a limited ammo supply, a signal jammer prevents them from calling a backup and a Judas hides among their flanks. In a Nat Geo Wild twist of events, the hunter becomes the hunted.

Lacson’s Alpha squad (L-R): Gelo Elia (AJ Muhlach), Loren Santos (Mara Lopez), Iggy Hizon (Tarek El Tayech), Nina Manigan (Anne Curtis). Photo via Viva Films and Reality Entertainment. 

Name the worst things you can think in Tondo, Manila and you will find it here. Claustrophobic shanties, flooded alleyways, dangling live wires – Gracia ni Maria is a breathing labyrinth of nightmare. Mix in a moody cinematography that juxtaposes gloom and neon lights, the air of dread and desperation only becomes more ominous. And as if being stuck in an unfamiliar environment is not a disadvantage enough, the residents, who are always treated as collateral damage in drug raids, starts fighting against our police squad too.

Guns start blazing and knives starts swinging. In addition, garden hoses, water basins, cactuses, you name it, anything that they can grab onto can also be weaponized (and when there’s nothing in sight, good ol’ trusty knuckles and teeth will suffice). Crazed and unorganized hordes of people swarm up from every nook and corner. Matti said it best during an interview, “this is a zombie film without zombies.” BuyBust is a cardio exercise that won’t back down anytime soon.

Alpha Squad in training (L-R): Loren Santos (Mara Lopez), Gelo Elia (AJ Muhlach), Rico Yatco (Brandon Vera). Photo via Viva Films and Reality Entertainment.

Working on confined spaces, injecting creativity in close quarter combats is no easy task but Matti goes above and beyond in ratcheting the suspense when it mattered the most. He employs elaborate choreography and tons of practical effects – a gorgeous shot of moon-lit smoke permeating inside a room comes to the mind. When it comes to the brawl, street fights are supposed to be messy and the action here is reality-grounded, free from any Jackie Chan level of martial arts. Not everything here is perfect. I had personal gripes on some action pieces that were too much reliant on shaky cams and quick cuts, especially on the first half. Plus, a loud musical scoring often dilutes the sound of gunfire and grunts.

Amidst the chaos, Curtis, reportedly with no stunt doubles, stands tall as the local scene’s top femme fatale to beat. There’s that much-touted three-minute continuous shot of her fending off enemies while scaling up and down on the slums. This could have been the toughest sequence ever shot in Philippine cinema, an astonishing feat that deserves huge accolades. Woot!

On the other hand, you may cast doubts on Curtis’ credibility when it comes to delivering body slams but MMA fighter Brandon Vera, in his movie debut as the burly Rico Yatco owns every ounce of action he’s in. He superkicks crooks like they’re a bunch of kittens. He channels his inner King Kong and lifts people and motorcycles up in the air. He cuts off a woman’s head using a huge pair of garden shears. Still, the guy maintains a likable screen presence. The supporting cast however, fared less and comes out as thinly-written characters. Not that the film needs to delve more on them but it should’ve done more effort for the viewers to genuinely care for their survival. There are some standouts though like the ones played by Alex Calleja and Arjo Atayde.

Facing off the residents of Gracia Ni Maria. Photo via Viva Films and Reality Entertainment.

BuyBust, on a surface level, is a game changer that hopefully will be the catalyst in the second coming of Philippine action films. As the film reaches its climax, what is marketed as a blockbuster action film turns into an unapologetic political film teeming with social commentary. The shot ends with a God’s eye view of Tondo, looking like a chessboard with heaps of corpses left in the wake of the war. The message becomes clear. The epic monstrosity we just witnessed is just a small scale of what we live in. We are all pawns to a system that is bigger than all of us. The true height of films is in their ability to provoke thoughts and sear them in one’s mind. BuyBust gets the job done.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Produced by Reality Entertainment, co-produced and distributed by Viva Films, BuyBust is now showing in PH cinemas starring Anne Curtis, Brandon Vera, Victor Neri, Arjo Atayde, Levi Ignacio, Nonie Buencamino, Lao Rodriguez, Alex Calleja, Joross Gamboa, Sheenly Gener, Mara Lopez, AJ Muhlach, Tarek El Tayech, Maddie Martinez, Ricky Pascua, Nafa Hilario, Ian Ignacio and Mikey Alcaraz. Directed by Erik Matti and written by Anton Santamaria and Erik Matti. Run time: 127 minutes.

Erik Matti’s ‘Buy Bust’ to open 14th Cinemalaya filmfest

Action-thriller “BuyBust” will open the 14th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival on August 3, at the CCP Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater). The opening film will be screened at 7 p.m., following the opening program at 6 p.m.

Directed by Erik Matti, the film follows rookie police officer Nina Manigan who joins the anti-narcotic elite squad. Soon, two teams are deployed to conduct a buy-bust operation in the slums of Manila. Realizing that the mission is poorly executed, the anti-narcotic squad finds themselves trapped by a gang of slum settlers and needs to fight their way out to escape.

Co-produced by Reality Entertainment and Viva Films, “BuyBust” is deemed as one of the most ambitious first full-on action films in recent local cinema history. With a budget of over ₱80 million, the film employed more than 300 stuntmen and utilized over 250,000 grams of gunpowder.

Production began in 2016, with the filming lasting 56 days starting in March 2017. The film premiered on June 29, 2018 at the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) and was the festival’s closing feature film.

The film is topbilled by actress Anne Curtis who played the lead role, and MMA fighter Brandon Vera. Completing the cast are Victor Neri, Arjo Atayde, Nonie Buencamino, Lao Rodriguez, Alex Calleja, Levi Ignacio, Ricky Pascua, Joross Gamboa, Sheenly Gener, Mara Lopez, AJ Muhlach, Tarek El Tayech, Maddie Martinez, Nafa Hilario, Ian Ignacio, and Mikey Alcaraz.

The screening of “BuyBust” will be invitational, with limited tickets available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. The tickets will be distributed on August 3, starting at 2 pm, at the CCP Little Theater Lobby.

Cinemalaya, the country’s biggest indie film festival in the Philippines, will run from August 3 to 12, at various venues of the CCP and selected Ayala Mall Cinemas. It is a project of the Cinemalaya Foundation, Inc., the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Ayala Malls Cinemas. Established in 2005, the film festival aims to discover, encourage and honor cinematic works of Filipino filmmakers.

READ MORE: Complete Guide to Cinemalaya 2018

Following the theme “Wings of Vision,” this year’s Cinemalaya features 10 full-length films and 10 short films in the Main Competition section, vying for the major awards.

There are also the festival’s mainstays: Dokyu, the documentary section; Best of the Festivals, which showcases the best films from local festivals; Indie Nation, a special section featuring independent films; Visions of Asia, featuring award-winning Asian and NETPAC films. There will also be a showcase of the final projects of the Directing and Production Management workshops under the 4th Cinemalaya Institute.

Cinemalaya and Nespresso also partnered to bring the Nespresso Vertical Short Competition. Following the theme “Pagmamalasakit (Empathy),” the vertical shorts competition seeks to discover, encourage and honor cinematic works of Filipino filmmakers.

There will also be a tribute to Maryo J. Delos Reyes through a special screening of his best films “Bagets” and “Magnifico”; and to Bernardo Bernardo by showing “Manila by Night” by Ishmael Bernal. Retrospective section will feature the 2017 Cinemalaya Best Film “Respeto” by Treb Monteras, and “Baconaua” by Joseph Israel Laban who won Best Director.

On its 30th edition, the Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video, considered the longest-running independent film competition of its kind in the ASEAN region, will once again harvest the best of the best, with films competing in various categories such as Short Feature/Narrative, Experimental, Documentary and Animation. Pre-selected entries will be screened on August 4-6 at the CCP Tanghalang Manuel Conde (Dream Theater).

The Cinemalaya Campus, a major component of Cinemalaya, is slated on August 7 & 8 at the Silangan Hall. The Cinemalaya Awards Night will be held on August 12, 2018 at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

For more information, visit http://www.cinemalaya.org, http://www.culturalcenter.gov.ph, or Cinemalaya Facebook page. You may also call CCP Media Arts at 832-1125 local 1704 to 1705. For ticket inquiries, call the CCP Box Office at 832-3704.

FDCP sends off six Filipino films to New York Asian Film Festival

In celebration of the lineup of six (6) Filipino genre films to be featured in this year’s New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), the Film Development Council of the Philippines held a Send-Off Press Conference for Filipino delegates last July 10, 2018 at Cocoon Hotel, Quezon City.

BuyBust directed by Erik Matti, Neomanila directed by Mikhail Red, On the Job directed by Erik Matti, Respeto directed by Treb Monteras, Sid & Aya (Not a Love Story) directed by Irene Villamor, and We Will Not Die Tonight by director Richard Somes were all represented during the Send-Off Press Con. Over the years, the finest cinematic works from the Philippines have been engaged and featured in NYAFF to connect with the Western audience to introduce our stories and visual works.

“With these incredible genre films that we have from our country, the Philippines could really be a hub of genre filmmaking. We are very proud that through NYAFF, they have found a platform so they may be accessed by North American audience, including our Filipino diaspora. FDCP has assisted our delegates through our International Film Festival Assistance Program (IFFAP) and we look forward to them connecting with international counterparts for future projects and collaborations. We wish them the best of luck,” said FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño.

IFFAP was granted to Filipino delegates, including Gawad Urian Best Actor, Abra of Respeto, producer Dondon Monteverde and directors Treb Monteras and Erik Matti. Director Richard Somes was also present at the opening of the Festival for the world premiere of his film, “We Will Not Die Tonight.” The same film was also announced as one of the official entries for this year’s Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino.

The 17th New York Asian Film Festival in New York City, USA runs until July 15, 2018.

• BuyBust (World Premiere)

Year released: 2018
Director: Erik Matti
Starring: Anne Curtis, Brandon Vera


“Rookie police officer Nina Manigan (Anne Curtis) joins an anti-narcotic elite squad, whose mission is to conduct a buy-bust operation in the slums of Manila.”

• Neomanila (New York Premiere)

Year Released: 2017
Director: Mikhail Red
Starring: Eula Valdes, Timothy Castillo, Rocky Salumbides, Jess Mendoza
Accolades Received:

Winner of Gawad Urian Awards 2018 – Best Cinematography (Mycko David)
Winner of QCinema International Film Festival 2017 Audience Choice Award – Circle Competition (Mikhail Red)
Winner of QCinema International Film Festival 2017 Pylon Award – Best Artistic Achievement (Mycko David)
Winner of The Eddys Awards 2018 – Best Director


“Toto, a teenage orphan, is recruited by a notorious death squad. Irma, the groups leader, soon becomes a maternal figure to the young boy. As the two form a familial bond, their loyalties will be put to the test when one of their targets turns out to be a familiar face.”

• On the Job

Year Released: 2013
Director: Erik Matti
Starring: Piolo Pascual, Gerald Anderson, Joel Torre, Joey Marquez, Michael de Mesa, Leo Martinez, Angel Aquino, Shaina Magdayao, Vivian Velez
Accolades Received:

Winner of FAMAS Awards 2014 – Best Picture
Winner of FAMAS Awards 2014 – Best Director (Erik Matti)
Winner of FAMAS Awards 2014 – Best Screenplay (Erik Matti, Michiko Yamamoto)
Winner of FAMAS Awards 2014 – Best Editing (Jay Halili)
Winner of FAMAS Awards 2014 – Best Story (Michiko Yamamoto, Erik Matti)
Winner of FAMAS Awards 2014 – Best Sound (Corinne De San Jose)
Winner of Gawad Urian Awards 2014 – Best Actor (Joel Torre)
Winner of Gawad Urian Awards 2014 – Best Sound (Corinne De San Jose)
Winner of Golden Screen Awards, Philippines 2014 – Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Drama) (Joel Torre)
Winner of Golden Screen Awards, Philippines 2014 – Best Original Story (Erik Matti)
Winner of Golden Screen Awards, Philippines 2014 – Best Visual/Special Effects (Dave Yu, Miguel Javier)
Winner of Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival 2013 – Best Actor (Joel Torre)
Winner of Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival 2013 – Jury’s Choice Award (Feature Film) (Erik Matti)
Winner of Star Awards for Movies 2014 – Movie of the Year
Winner of Star Awards for Movies 2014 – Movie Director of the Year (Erik Matti)
Winner of Star Awards for Movies 2014 – Movie Cinematographer of the Year (Dix Buhay)
Winner of Star Awards for Movies 2014 – Movie Editor of the Year (Jay Halili)
Winner of Star Awards for Movies 2014 – Movie Sound Engineer of the Year (Corinne De San Jose)
Winner of Star Awards for Movies 2014 – Movie Screenwriter of the Year (Erik Matti, Michiko Yamamoto)
Winner of Star Awards for Movies 2014 – Movie Supporting Actor of the Year (Joey Marquez)

Synopsis: “On the Job is a Filipino crime thriller inspired by a real-life scandal in which prison inmates are temporarily released from prison to work as contract killers on behalf of politicians and high ranking military officials.”

• Respeto (North American Premiere)

Year Released: 2017
Director: Treb Monteras II
Starring: Abra (Raymond Abracosa), Loonie (Marlon Peroramas), Dido de la Paz, Chai Fonacier
Accolades Received:

Winner of FAMAS Awards 2018 – Grand Jury Prize, Best Picture (Treb Monteras II)
Winner of FAMAS Awards 2018 – Best Musical Score (Jay Durias)
Winner of Gawad Urian Awards 2018 – Best Actor (Abra)
Winner of Gawad Urian Awards 2018 – Best Supporting Actor (Dido de la Paz)
Winner of Gawad Urian Awards 2018 – Best Editing (Lawrence Ang)
Winner of Gawad Urian Awards 2018 – Best Sound (Corrine De San Jose)
Winner of Cyprus Film Days International Festival 2018 – Glocal Images, Audience Award (Treb Monteras II) (Feature Film), (Arkeofilms) (Production)
Winner of Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2017 – Audience Award, Main Competition (Treb Monteras II)
Winner of Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2017 – Balanghai Trophy, Best Film (Treb Monteras II)
Winner of Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2017 – Balanghai Trophy, Best Sound (Corrine De San Jose)
Winner of Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2017 – Balanghai Trophy, Best Editing (Lawrence Ang)
Winner of Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2017 – Balanghai Trophy, Best Cinematography (Ike Avellana) (Tied with TM Malones for ‘Baconaua’)
Winner of Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2017 – Balanghai Trophy, Best Supporting Actor (Dido de la Paz)
Winner at The Eddys Awards 2018 – Best Film , Best Supporting Actor (Dido de La Paz), Best Supporting Actress (Chai Fonacier),Best Musical Score, Best Sound Design, Best Original Themesong

Premise: “A poor aspiring rapper befriends an older poet after vandalizing his bookstore.”

• Sid & Aya (Not a Love Story) (New York Premiere)

Year Released: 2018
Director: Irene Villamor
Starring: Anne Curtis, Dingdong Dantes

Premise: “Sid & Aya (Not a Love Story) follows Sid who suffers from insomnia and meets Aya who he hires to accompany him in his sleepless nights.”

• We Will Not Die Tonight (World Premiere)

Year Released: 2018
Director: Richard Somes
Starring: Erich Gonzales, Alex Medina, Thou Reyes, Nico Dans, Max Eigenmann, Paolo Paraiso

Synopsis: “Kray (Erich Gonzales) is a stuntwoman, an aspiring actress, and all-around racketeer who can’t seem to get a break. A botched deal gone into a total haywire will challenge her principles and her skillset.

Anne Curtis, Brandon Vera star in Erik Matti’s action-thriller ‘Buy Bust’

For the first time, Princess of All Media and Showbiz Glam Girl Anne Curtis will shed her Goddess-like image to tackle a role that requires her to deliver intense and gripping action scenes in VIVA Films and Reality Entertainment’s latest joint venture, “BuyBust.”

Joining Anne in the stellar cast of this Erik Matti action-thriller masterpiece earmarked for international release is Fil-Am, ONE Championship heavyweight champion Brandon Vera.

Two international companies have joined forces to ensure “BuyBust’s” international success: XYZ Films, the movie’s sales agent and Well Go USA, the movie’s official distributor in North America, which will start playing US cinemas starting on August 10.

Well Go USA, an international film distributor, is the same company responsible for the distribution of the international hit, “Train to Busan,” which features Korean Superstar, Gong Yoo. They will formally launch the movie to the public on July 19 during the 21st Annual Superhero Kung Fu Extravaganza at the San Diego Comic Con.

“BuyBust” will have its world premiere on July 15 as it has been chosen as closing film in the New York Asian Film Festival, where Anne, Brandon, Direk Erik and Dondon Monteverde are scheduled to attend.

On July 18, “BuyBust” will have its Canadian premiere in the Fantasia Festival as well as Asian premiere in the Buncheon International Fantastic Film Festival.

Aside from the film’s screening in US and Korea, the movie will also be seen and enjoyed by our kababayans in Middle East, Hong Kong, and Singapore soon.

In an interview, Dylan Marchetti, Well Go USA senior vice president for acquisitions and theatrical distribution, said, ”If you lose your mind for an amazing action film, the last hour of “BuyBust” is going to blow your head clean off.”

The movie will revolve around a special forces team sent to snuff out a drug den only to find themselves trapped inside it after being set-up and betrayed.

The project is a 360-degree turn as well as a very challenging one for the “It’s Showtime” mainstay as Anne spent hours and hours of rigorous training to give justice to the character of drug enforcement agent, Nina Manigan in the film.

Here, she is seen stained with blood during hand-to-hand combat with her co-stars.

In a previous interview, Anne said, “I’ve been working on this for two years already and alam kong ang dami nang naghihintay na mapanood siya dito. Ang galing din kasi, at least, masho-showcase ang quality ng Filipino film sa ibang bansa.”

But Anne gets ample support and pointers from Brandon, who, needless to say, is an expert in the mixed martial arts arena. “BuyBust” is Brandon’s big screen debut.

In addition to this, they are ably handled by award-winning Direk Erik, the brains behind such cutting-edge movies as “OTJ” and the multi-awarded Metro Manila Filmfest entries, “Honor Thy Father” and “Seklusyon.”

Meanwhile, also in the cast of “Buy Bust” are Victor Neri, Arjo Atayde, AJ Muhlach, Joross Gamboa and Noni Buencamino, among others.

Don’t miss Anne and Brandon’s own brand of combat as the action-suspense thriller. “BuyBust” opens in local cinemas on August 1, from VIVA Films and Reality Entertainment.

MOVIE REVIEW: Honor Thy Father (2015)

Honor Thy Father (2015) Review
Directed by Erik Matti
Written by Michiko Yamamoto

It is an ordinary day for Edgar (John Lloyd Cruz) that after attending to his plants, he hops into his car with a sunken face. While waiting for his daughter Angel (Krystal Brimner) to join him, he throws food out of the window for a stray dog to consume in seconds. It would have been just an ordinary day only if the drive is not for a visit to the principal’s office. He stares blankly at his daughter as the principal narrates how the kid has poked the eye of a bully classmate.

It is a secret to keep in that the two just go home as if nothing has happened, without any mention of the subject to his wife. At home, Kaye (Meryll Soriano), is convincing a group of friends to invest in her father’s business where everyone drastically gets rich. Edgar sits from afar, listening to how people gets swooned easily.

A world for a stranger. Edgar sees the environment as an uncharted territory where he immerses himself but still does not get the hang of it. A foreigner in a bizarre land. He joins the sea of swaying hands in worship but only with his physical presence. Amidst the hymns of praise of fellow Pentecostal parishioners, it’s as if there is no music to hear other than the beating of his heart. His mind is somewhere else as he looks away, almost through the walls of the Church of Yeshua he is now a part of. Without a doubt, he feels no less than an outcast.

honor thy father movie

Never did they imagine that everything is a pyramid scam. Their family has already made millions out of investing to the scheme but things just go awry when Kaye’s father is killed and the money is nowhere to be found. Much to the anger of their investors, violence enters their then-peaceful house as those they once called friends feel impelled to make the family return the money. This ks despite the fact that their family has lost their own savings as well. In effect, Kaye breaks down in suffering while Edgar got his face broken–moreso his eyes–with not much to defend himself.

With nowhere else to lean to, they ask help from their bishop who is straighforward in that the family’s millions’ worth of donation is solely for the Church. “Yeshua will provide,” Tirso Cruz III’s character cries. Then come death threats and an assault to their kid. They decide to seek the aid of Edgar’s family: their choice funneled down to plotting a bigger crime.

honor thy father movie john lloyd cruz 4

There is an overflow of emotion inside JLC’s Edgar. The passion that works can easily be mistaken for greed. But at the end of the day, the performance is riveting and provocative in the context of letting the audience ask themselves “Where is God in all these?”

Honor Thy Father laughs at itself and within every little issue it wants to observe, crossing the demarcation points of socially acceptable norms and the dark side of human hypocrisy. In the middle of inequality, it dons thriller and self-aware comedy that hits on religion, politics, class, materialism and even down to fundamentalism.

honor thy father movie john lloyd cruz 2

“Will you poke them in the eye, Papa?” the kid asks Edgar after some yuppies raggedly shave her head much to her shame. It is rather a heartfelt scene when he shaves his own head in front of her as a sign of support. The father-and-daughter tandem is polished as it has back in the principal’s office. The relationship between the two is founded in affection and the necessity to hold onto the loose chances of life.

That trip of Edgar and Angel paves the transition to an otherworld away from the pressure of the suburban. They go up to the mountains to enlist his brothers in a heist that would furnish them with the money needed to pay back their debtors. Only this act involves stealing the collection money of the Church from inside–risky at its core.

honor thy father movie john lloyd cruz 1

Erik Matti proves himself once more as a determined director among the new-breed and the seasoned. He has previously depicted traditional sex trade in Prosti and delve into a close look at police corruption in On the Job to which Honor Thy Father is righteously compared. There is indispensable fluidity in his craft as he pushes borders in his latest work. First thing is its solid objective to serve something fresh to the plate of the Filipino audiences. Another thing is his skillfulness in fleshing out a more mature role fit for John Lloyd Cruz (but of course it would have been treated differently with Dingdong Dantes as the lead since he was the first choice).

honor thy father movie john lloyd cruz 3

There is evidently a hefty hand in each frame that it would be impossible to take the overall mood for granted. The writing of Michiko Yamamoto is focused on the protagonist and lets the story flow along his character while being wary of his conscience at stake. Danced by Dong Abay’s melancholic rendition of Ama Namin, the composition of the environment mixes with the music and invokes a tinge of gloom. This is paired with the pastels of the sun-kissed skies and textured land captured by director of photography Ber Cruz.

We see another familial inspection in the consolation of Edgar’mother, played by Perla Bautista. “A parent can forgive anything”, she reminds him. But to honor is another thing. Anyone can be forgiven in spite of the evil we have within.

honor thy father movie poster