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'BuyBust' paints the nightmares of Philippine politics through chaotic action

buybust movie review

Watching ‘BuyBust’ was a very strange experience. In one sequence, shot on long take, I think to myself the last time I have seen a film with such impressive technical and actor choreographies. Perhaps, John Woo did it best in a few films. ‘The Raid’ films rekindled my love for intense action. Erik Matti’s new directorial effort was an ambitious attempt to go head-to-head with the juggernauts of the genre. Was that a good thing, obviously yes because this one's quite a beast.

The plot is very simple. A drug-busting police force goes on a bust operation in a community where a big-time drug leader by the name of Biggie Chen is currently residing. But their ambush was a setup all along, quickly shifting their goal from a simple arrest to a run for survival. 

buybust movie review

But this is only half of the film. The morality in the event of survival has repeatedly been hammered to its characters, until they realize that survival might not be inescapable at this point of their lives. Nani Manigan, a member of the police force, is the central character of this chaos. We follow her in a video game-like journey from making a killing spree out of escape from people trying to kill her up to a shocking boss battle. The film heavily plays on her shock from these events, and effectively narrates her tragic history as a backdrop from her eventual fuelled anger.

buybust movie review

Anne Curtis was fascinating as Manigan, displaying a new thespian angle different from the usual soft-hearted flare of her previous works. Curtis manages to pull off a sense of dread and empathy, almost the same way Erik Matti transformed Gerald Anderson in ‘On The Job’  and John Lloyd Cruz in ‘Honor Thy Father.’ But the real surprise of the entire film came was Arjo Atayde. We all know Brandon Vera can produce strong moves based of his MMA background, but Atayde overshadowed everyone in just a couple of minutes of screen time. One audience member in a post-screening forum of the film perfectly puts it, “[Atayde] reminds me of Judi Dench with that short scene.” I can’t wait to see what this guy can do in the future, with good materials to work on of course.

buybust movie review

The action could come off as gratuitous, but Matti made it clear that he wants a solid popcorn movie. And we got a great one. Even with its politically charged view by the final act, it never really lets off steam. It just made the whole thing better. The film allows a non-biased perception on political hierarchy, as all sides were given generous time to flaunt their own set of attacks. It puts to really satisfying results when all of these three clashed in one scene. 

buybust movie review

But the real star of 'BuyBust' is its technical wizardry. This is clearly a film that has been taken into heart and sweat. A film that never settles for what's easy. Up to now, I still wonder how could they pull off something like this, and I seriously hope this triggers a new direction for our local cinema in terms of taking huge, dangerous leaps.

'BuyBust' is now showing in cinemas nationwide. Rated R-16 by the MTRCB.




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