August 3, 2013
Stripped down to its basic premise, actually "Babagwa" tells a relatively simple story, about how a group of con artists from Pampanga use Facebook to meet potential "prospects". Once the victim's confidence is earned, they proceed to ask for money which they do not have plans to repay.
Greg (Alex Medina) pretends he is a rich model named Bam Bonifacio to snag his victims with fake shirtless photos on his FB page and smooth talking on the phone. Marney (Joey Paras) is Greg's ruthless gay trainer and partner-in-crime. They were doing swimmingly well until one day, Greg strikes a friendship with his latest prospect, a sexy matron named Daisy (Alma Concepcion), and unexpectedly falls in love with her.
Alex Medina, whom I only knew from TV soap "Ina, Kapatid, Anak", plays the conflicted Greg effectively and bravely, with no qualms about how the director wants him portrayed. This guy has got his Medina acting genes in full display in this intense portrayal. Joey Paras seems to be the same loud gay guy every time I see him, getting typecast in that same florid portrayal. He does deliver a good punchline when he is being cute or funny. Alma Concepcion returns to the big screen after a long absence playing basically a more mature version of her vamp persona from her previous films. Her delivery of some incredibly cheesy romantic lines drew the loudest applause during the film.
When the movie sticks to the story, it is interesting, engaging and exciting. You will get hooked into the web it spins. The climactic confrontation scene between Greg and Marney was explosive and excruciating, an acting highlight in the film. I liked the way writer/director Jason Paul Laxamana shifts to using another actor (a more mestizo Kiko Matos) and more affluent settings (picturesque river, luxurious condo) whenever Greg is in Bam Bonifacio mode. On retrospect though after watching the film, I realize this technique may portend about events to come for some more astute audiences.
However, I noted that Laxamana included so much extraneous scenes seemingly to prolong the running time of what could have been a shorter film. Those numerous raucous nude sex scenes between Greg and his girlfriend Neri, or that sequence where Marney tries to hit on the hunky apartment caretaker may have been funny, but they were far too long while being not really that essential. They could have been shortened or even deleted without affecting the film too adversely. It is not as if we need more proof what big creeps they are. Haha!
I also felt the ending scene was not very satisfactory given the excellent build up to that moment. Because of obvious clues in the narrative, the whole audience probably already knew what was going to happen, and was just waiting for the way the director was going show it on screen. It could have been edited more tightly so as not to water down the tension and suspense.
Based on the spontaneous loud applause after the screening I watched today at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute, I think this film was an audience favorite. The basic story line is actually quite commercial. The general moviegoing public will relate to it more than the other entries in the film fest. In fact, just today, I learned that "Babagwa" was declared the Box Office Hit among the New Breed films, and that comes as no surprise. 6/10.