July 15, 2016
I do not usually watch mainstream Filipino movies because they are usually rom-coms or rom-dramas, which are not exactly my cup of tea. That is why for Filipino films, I prefer watching indie films for the edgier topics they tackle. However, there are some rare exceptions, and this mainstream film "Dukot" is one of them.
Bureau of Customs official Charlie Sandoval and his loving wife Cecille just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. They have two children. Eldest daughter Cathy has an MBA and is now running a classy yoga studio. His youngest, 19 year old Carlo dabbled in photography, but was generally still aimless in his life. One day, a gang of thieves held up Cathy's place of business. Diverting from their usual MO, they decided to kidnap Carlo for want of a higher monetary yield.
The suspense began right from the opening sequence alone, where multiple characters were being introduced one after the other in a tightly-edited montage, accompanied by an intense musical score. The camera angles used were quite adventurous and dramatic, adding not only to the photographic beauty but also to the atmosphere of dread and danger being built up. That overhead shot tracking the kidnappers' car from the road to their remote hideout was technically stunning.
This film was designed to be an acting vehicle for teen heartthrob Enrique Gil. He delivered very well in his mostly silent role as Carlo. He wordlessly made us feel his misery and helplessness as the kidnap victim. Ricky Davao and Bing Pimentel were given plenty of dramatic highlights as the distraught parents Charlie and Cecile. Shaina Magdayao felt underused in her rather limited role as the guilt-stricken sister Cathy.
Ping Medina played the usually level-headed gang leader Alex, who turned to crime to raise money for the eye surgery of his blind mother (Erlinda Villalobos) and the education of his deaf-mute daughter Jenny. His character was the most puzzling and erratic one as the story unfolded. Alex Medina played the crazy loose cannon of the group Jimbo, who the scariest one because of his unpredictability. He played this one-dimensional role with manic relish. Bangs Garcia played Girlie, Jimbo's sexy girlfriend and criminal accomplice. Too bad they did not play up the Bonnie and Clyde dynamics of this pair. Dino Pastrano (best actor in the indie film "Baka, Siguro, Yata") was wasted in a nondescript role of a goon who did not even have any speaking lines.
Christopher de Leon, whose recent films have been plagued by some hammy acting mannerisms, was surprisingly restrained in his performance as the ex-soldier "Shotgun" Johnny, the oldest gang member assigned to stand guard over Carlo in captivity. He projected the sinister nature of his character quite subtly, without those irritating and florid facial tics he had been known to do in the past.
The story is rather straightforward. It even became predictable a little more than halfway through because of some obvious clues. Several issues brought up within the film, like the motives for crime and the corruption in the bureaucracy, were never heard about again. However, it was the directorial skill of Paul Soriano that made this film rise above the limitations of its script. The unique cinematographic decisions and the heart-pounding film editing were outstanding and worthy of recognition. 7/10.