Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Review of THE TRIGONAL: Forceful Fighting Form

October 2, 2018

This local action film had a very unusual commercial run. I don't know how many movie houses were showing this when it opened last Wednesday, but over the weekend, it was only showing in only one cinema, in only one mall, for only one screening time per day at 2:50 pm. However, because of this very limited release, in addition to its intriguing title and classy-looking poster, I was drawn to try to catch it even more. 

Set in Bacolod City, Jacob Casa was a taekwondo champion who ran a dojo for MMA. He and his wife Annie were excitedly expecting their first child. One day, Jacob received an invitation to join an underground fight club competition called The Trigonal run by a ruthless drug lord Henry Tan. He was not keen to join at first, but a very harsh series of tragedies made it impossible for Jacob to refuse the call to fight, in order to achieve redemption.

I only knew four actors in the cast. Rhian Ramos played Jacob's loving but headstrong wife Annie. Epy Quizon had a brief role as Jacob's friend and business partner Dodoy. Christian Vazquez hammily played Tan's violent henchman Allen with crazy eyes and flaring nostrils. It was good to see former taekwondo Olympian Monsour del Rosario back on screen and still kicking high as Jacob's sensei Mike Vazquez, who trained Jacob in tapado. 

The rest of the main cast were largely unknown actors, but were stars in various fields of martial arts. Tall, long-haried, unmistakably Filipino-looking lead actor Ian Ignacio (as Jacob) was a protege of Monsour del Rosario in taekwondo. Before this, he only had a few films under his belt, as well as stage experience in Dulaang UP ("The Country Wife" in 2014), but Ignacio pulled off the lead role creditably, not only in those hardhitting fights, but also in the teary dramatic scenes.

Asian-American Sarah Chang is a wushu champion. Here she was the director of the fight scenes, and she also displayed her winning wushu form onscreen. As Jacob's new friend and cornerman Mei Li (who was also an MIT graduate in electrical engineering and computer science!), Chang is a delightful presence with her sassy attitude and wacky sense of humor. Mei grew up in San Francisco, and was just visiting her Mandarin-speaking father Master Li (Qian Li Yang), who taught wushu in the taoist temple in Bacolod, when she got drawn into the action.

Writer and director Vincent Soberano was a muay thai champion. He also had an onscreen role as the cool and toothpick-chewing detective Tony Pascual. His character got to deliver a lot of chill punchlines and steal the scenes where he's in. I guess that is the advantage when you are also the writer and director, and that is a good thing. Aside from English, Soberano also gets to drop a few lines in Ilonggo, with that unmistakable lilting accent. 

Hongkong-based director and actor Gus Liem played the main antagonist Henry Tan. Despite his senior age and gentle features, he was still able to project a fearful crime-lord vibe around him. Australian actor and martial artist Paul Allica played James Lowe, the main fighter in Henry Tan's drug-enhanced stable. As the nasty-looking scar on his face clearly suggested, this Lowe was a one-dimensional bad guy.

The film was a nostagic throwback to the Hollywood action films of the 80s and 90s, usually starring Stallone or Van Damme, where the underdog hero goes up against monstrous odds and still managed to come up on top. Aside from some Mandarin, Tagalog and Ilonggo by some characters, most of the film's dialogue was in English, but it did not sound awkward, instead this gave it a distinct charm. We probably have an idea what was going to happen, but the incredible fight scenes keep us glued to watch. 

A Trigonal match was divided into two parts. The first part was a fight using weapons, and would last only five minutes. However, the second part was pure unarmed combat with no time limit. Beyond these guidelines, there were no other rules -- anything goes. The last man standing would bring home the grand prize of US$ 1 million. 

The camera angles, editing and choreography of these brutal fight scenes made it feel like we were right in the thick of the fights.  It was hard not to wince in pain when watching the action because we feel every blow to the face, or punch to the midsection, or kick to the torso with "penetrating energy". The MTRCB rating was R-16 due to its all-out, hard-core, realistically bone-breaking violence. Action fans would surely enjoy this intense mixed martial arts showcase. 8/10. 

1 comment:

  1. Reminiscent to the real Action movies Indeed with a twist.