On The Job

For the first time, I was speechless.

On a quiet Sunday night, my friend and I went to Powerplant Mall to catch the screening of the highly hyped Erik Matti film, On the Job.

True, I've heard of it a bunch of times, as one of its stars is one of our endorsers, where I work. But until I have heard from many a Filipino moviegoer how amazing it was -- how un-Filipino it was, and yet mirroring our society, I just had to.

On the Job is not your typical, run of the mill, sayawan at the beach kind of movie. Expect no love story, no over the top wailing, no blatant complaints of how sick and wicked the Philippine society is.

The story begins as Joel Torre {here referred to, as Tatang} is walking his protege Gerald {Daniel} through the busy streets of Manila. After some twists and turns, Tatang suddenly aims a gun at a Chinese-looking guy and without blinking, fires a second shot, making it seem like a Tarantino movie where red blood and brains splatter all over the pavement. Tatang and Daniel run towards a black Pajero and drove off, threw out the guns into a river like nothing happened. They then go back to a provincial jail and resume their lives askosas.

On The Job sprawls out and unveils a "norm" in the Philippine society: people in power hire hitmen who are in jail to kill people they want dead so no one ever finds out who did it. Tatang and Daniel engage in more killings until Joey Marquez {SPO1 Acosta} comes hot on their trail, followed by Piolo Pascual {Atty. Francis Coronel and NBI Chief}. It was through this that we get to know Michael de Mesa {Manrique}, Coronel's father in law, and General Pacheco {Leo Martinez} who are the brains in all these killings. The conflict ensues when Coronel is forced to shut up when he wants to arrest Pacheco for being the source of this societal contraption. At the same time, Tatang is in danger of being out of "the job" for two reasons a) because the police has his cartographic sketch already and b) because he's about to get his parole, thus rendering him useless as a hitman since he will have no cover anymore. His protege, Daniel, seems ripe to replace him anyway.

I cannot tell you how it proceeded, nor how it ended but I can tell you that I was gripped the entire time. As a former non-believer of Filipino movies {unless of course I am in the mood for some John Lloyd movie har har}, I couldn't get up to go to the ladies' room for fear of missing a link in the movie. Every scene was well-crafted, the dialogues were realistic {expect a lot of profanity and some nudity}, the staging every inch a Filipino street. It was so disgusting I could imagine how it smelled, and that I knew without a doubt it was lifted from the reality of Manila governance. There was no denying it. It can crush your hope because now you know that there are people whose need for money are being abused by people who has money but do not want the blood on their hands.

Why you should watch it: Here is a film that will not let you think you know the next scene, it will leave you speechless. You will be amazed at how cunning Joel Torre's character can be, yet his love for his family shines through. Gerald Anderson grows up from his teenybopper roles {though I've never seen him in any movie nor show before this}, Joey Marquez proves he is an actor and he will touch you with his fatherly scenes. Most of all, Piolo Pascual will distract you with his boyish looks which will make you wonder, what if all NBI chiefs looked that good, more criminals will turn themselves in.

Thank you for bringing hope back to Philippine cinema, Erik Matti. It made me depressed and disturbed about the state of this country but if I never saw your film, I would've never known. It couldn't have been any more timely, too. The first step is always knowing --- the rest will just have to come after that. What you do with what you feel after watching that film is important.

And yes, these Esquire covers are truly well deserved.