With a catchy title, an excellent casting, a cutting-edge action, a breathtaking cinematography, and a hypnotic and engaging screenplay, On The Job (OTJ), an official selection in the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, will resurrect the once sparkling genre of crime-action thrillers that fearlessly tackled on social issues, and will undoubtedly become, a Filipino classic.
A few local movies have made their way straight to my taste. Most of the time, they usually bear the annoying mainstream recipe in the Philippine film industry, where the producers bank their hopes on good-looking actors and actresses with an already solid fan base. The sad thing is no matter how crappy the story is, as long as they hire the most charming celebrities to play the lead role, the movie becomes a grand slam. And so if producers are motivated by earnings from these films, then they’ll most likely follow the same track.
Finally, a fresh breeze of change is now seen in the coming of Erik Matti’s On The Job (OTJ). Although you can trace the pattern of casting prime-time actor Gerald Anderson and the controversial hunk actor Piolo Pascual, the men behind this picture did work their butts off in every aspect of the film. A more harnessed actor, Joel Torre, paints the meat of the film with a stellar portrayal of a multi-layered character. But the actors are not the main reason why the experience in watching this film has been immensely personal and realistic.
The plot opens up with a dawning of a crime scene and slowly traces the story back to the beginnings and origins of the assassins and deeper into the complicated meshwork of greed and deceit involving people installed at the heights of Philippine politics. The viewer slowly finds himself one with the characters. The feeling of anger towards the principal actor of the crime slowly transforms to emotions of sympathy and understanding leading to a stronger curiosity towards the more interesting stories behind the accomplices. The screenplay and the injection of details will leave the viewer focusing on one detail of the plot while another unravels on tipped toe and confronts the viewer with a big bang. The flow of the story is consistent in catching you off guard, as predictable facts are revealed in unpredictable patterns.
A good movie experience is never complete without a convincing and thrilling musical score that heightens emotions of fear, anticipation and despair. The producers of OTJ certainly did not miss this out. You’ll be proud, as a Filipino, that a film like this was able to portray a story and ace the essentials of a good musical score. The use of drums is appropriate and not overpowering and the sound of strings in an orchestra enters dramatically and transitions along with the emotions portrayed in the scenes.
The style of framing and filming has taken huge leaps when compared to the present-day main-stream acts. You’ll immediately notice that the camera is dynamic rather than static. It takes the viewer into the scene and moves the with the characters and by doing so taking your movie experience to a different level.
Finally, I am thankful that at last somebody paid attention to details on set design and lighting. My favorite scene was when the character portrayed by Gerald Anderson, walks out into the orange sky casted by the setting sun and the orange glow magically reflects on the roofs of the structures in the background. It was an area of poverty, but because of how it was presented it appeared to be more like an area of hope.
On The Job could easily be singled out as giant improvement that brings pride to the Philippine entertainment industry. And although it might be too early to hand Erik Matti the title as the modern day Rizal, he should be given a credit as a fearless master storyteller; a title none of the present directors are worthy of holding at the present time. OTJ is a piece of art that every Filipino should not only see, but experience, because only God knows when a film like this would once again grace the Philippine cinemas.