Wednesday, August 15, 2018

PPP 2018: Review of WE WILL NOT DIE TONIGHT: Cacophonous Chaos

August 15, 2018

Kray (Erich Gonzales) was the daughter of a retired stuntman (the later Baldo Marro), who now worked as a stuntwoman herself for a living. One day, Kray, together with her old friends Jonesky (Thou Reyes), Cheche (Max Eigenmann) and Reneboy (Nico Dans) were gathered up together again by their ring leader Ramil (Alex Medina) for a new money-making project. Little did they know that their new job with boss Bangkil (Paolo Paraiso) got them involved in a grisly organ-harvesting gig from which they could not quit.

If I could be completely honest, comparisons with Erik Matti's "BuyBust" (BB) would not be too far-fetched. Both films were about a team of friends whose planned operation went wrong and so they had to fight themselves out of the tight spot they were trapped in within one night.  In BB, it was in a maze-like slum in Tondo. Here it was an abandoned warehouse at the ports, also in Tondo. 

The teams in both films had females who can fight as skillfully as the men, one of whom was the lead character. Both had a male team leader who was injured early on in the film, and had to fight injured (Bernie in BB, Ramil here). Both had a member who was a gentle giant of a man (Rico in BB, Reneboy here). The fight scenes in both films were brutal and graphic, shot with artistic flourish of light and shadow, accompanied by a rock music.

Nevertheless, despite these parallels, "We Will Not Die Tonight" was a awesome film on its own. Thanks to box-office success of BB, the interest of the public for action films had just been freshly whet, so with the immediate release of this film right after BB, the iron was struck while it was hot. 

Erich Gonzales did very well in the lead role playing an action heroine, a role that was a major departure from the roles she did in her previous TV or film work. Her Kray was tough, no-nonsense, and did not back down from a fight. Right off the bat she was shown running down the street being chased by motorcycles. She chinned a bar, shimmied down an elevator cable, fought solo against a number of men (mano-a-mano, with various bladed weapons, breaking necks, asphyxiating by rope) all while keeping little girl Isabel (Ayesha Arreza) safe, among other athletic feats. Impressive.

Alex Medina seems to be getting typecast in these rascal roles. When he does a role, you do not really trust the character anymore, like Ramil here. I had seen Thou Reyes as a swishy transgender before on stage and TV, so I was surprised to see him take on the role of the macho boxer Jonesky. I had seen Max Eigenmann in a number of quirky drama indie films before, but nothing like the amazon fighter Cheche was here. She was so cool that she even lit a cigarette in the face of sure death. Nico Dans's hefty Reneboy always picked up the rear during the running scenes. His memorable scene was that one where he was left injured, alone and wandering aimlessly, like a goat served on a platter for the wolves.

All the actors playing the villains played their roles with over-the-top evil. Paolo Paraiso was fearsome as the heartless Bangkil. Sarah Jane Abad played Bangkil's girlfriend Tanya like a witch with her shrill cackling voice. Jeffrey Tam did a total transformation from the silly comedian he is known for into the vicious shotgun-slinging Kirat. Indie staple Jess Mendoza also joined in the fray as creepy gang member Aswang.

I thought the film editing by Jaymie Dumancas deserved an award for its rapid yet clean splicing of scenes to create that frenetic atmosphere. Another technical detail that deserved recognition is the awesome sound and the seamless editing together of those multiple simultaneous sound effects (bone crushing punches, slashing knives, crying kid, groaning injured guy, etc) heard at the same time to create the cacophonous chaos of this film. Kudos to the costume department for giving Kray that badass black sleeveless Metallica t-shirt!

Overall, this was one very exciting action film shot with modern sensibilities and style by writer / director Richard Somes, with cinematographer Alex Esperto. The fights, as choreographed by Jake and Jhappy Bahian, were purposely unpolished brawls -- so well-suited to the film's dingy, rough-hewn vibe. Most appropriately, this action film was dedicated to all stuntmen and stuntwomen in the local film industry and to the memory of the most famous one of them all, Baldo Marro. 

It is said that Somes shot this film in only eight days, so to come up with something this vibrant, thrilling, scary and energetic (without resorting to curse words) is truly a remarkable achievement. 8/10. 

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