November 29, 2015

On the Job

Erik Matti, 2013
On the Job is a very well made Filipino crime thriller. It's a film that forces you follow two perspectives. On one hand you are following a mentor/protege dynamic involving a veteran assassin trying to teach a young guy the ropes. On the other hand you are following a career-focused clean cop that is trying to do what's right, despite the questionable ties to crime that his in-laws have. But fortunately it's not a simplistic good guys / bad guys film. Both sides are nuanced. It's a fruitful film that leaves you with quite a bit to remember. The production skills are evident within the first twenty minutes. One early big treat is an impressive long take. Daniel (Gerald Anderson) returns from his "outside work" to the grimy prison. The camera pans, capturing all of the various characters inside the prison. Recreational activities, laundry-doing in an outside nook. The attention to detail doesn't stop at the decorated jail. Your eyes will be fixed as the camera moves through the shanty villages of the Philippines. When you enter the claustrophobic abode of partner assassin Mario (Joel Torre), there are images of the tiny little home that are sure to be ingrained in your mind for some time. Makes you kind of wish you could spend more time just exploring the dirty, yet intriguing home.

On the Job is really a blend of a crime thriller with a prison drama. The exterior crime elements certainly take away from the sense of confinement and isolation of pure prison dramas. In a sense it's like a blend of Corsican prison film A Prophet and the Vincent Cassel-led Mesrine films. Everything is executed really well. You spend the duration of the film caught up in both sides of a captivating narrative, all set in a system full of corruption.

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