Here are some photos of Daniel Radcliffe on the set of his new film Kill Your Darlings. The film basically revolves around several poets who are drawn together after a murder in 1944 — Daniel plays an American poet named Allen Ginsberg. Frankly, I’m not exactly loving Daniel’s new curly hair, but I am definitely looking forward to watching him in this flick. I mean, it would be interesting to hear Daniel speaking with an American accent, no?
I’m all shy and awkward
but when I’m with my friends i’m all weird and loud
by Jansen Musico
Manila Kingpin: The Untold Story of Asiong Salonga (2011)
S: Jeorge Estregan Jr., Carla Abellana, John Regala, Baron Geisler
Like a slaughtered calf, Asiong is hung from the ceiling. His hands are tied and his face is bruised and bleeding. He has become a human punching bag to a guy threatening him to leave town for good. Like Jesus on the cross, Asiong is weak and dying, his head dropping lifelessly on his chest as a glob of blood drips from his lips. This opening scene is stark. It’s a moving chiaroscuro that sets the tone for what pledges to be the reawakening of Philippine action cinema. But much like its title antihero, that promise dies rather abruptly.
Much has been said about Manila Kingpin: The Untold Story of Asiong Salonga. Praises and insults had been thrown even before its opening day. Its original director, Tikoy Aguiluz, did not want anything to do with the project because of disputes with the film’s producers. After seeing the reedited work, I could see why. Manila Kingpin is nothing but a gratuitous remake.
In 1961’s Asiong Salonga, pre-president Joseph Estrada gave birth to the role, which then would be taken over by Rudy Fernandez in 1977’s Salonga. In 1990, Jeorge Estregan Jr., better known as E.R. Ejercito or Joseph Estrada’s nephew, revived the movie and filled the title role. With three versions of the same film already in existence, what’s the need for another? What else could possibly be squeezed out from Asiong’s regurgitated story?
This year’s Metro Manila Film Festival big winner is puzzling, to say the least. The film is beautifully shot and framed. The black and white rendering also helps give the film its crisp dated look reminiscent of 1950s Hollywood noir. The use of it is justified, considering that the events taking place are within that decade. The costumes are also on point. The ladies in their glamorous frocks and powdered faces and the gentlemen in their starched, pressed shirts look like they waltzed out of vintage post-WWII fashion catalogs.
Although most of the film’s action sequences are stylistically on par with those of recent Hollywood flicks, they may as well be deemed as copycats. Hints of Quentin Tarantino, Danny Boyle, Wong Kar Wai, and, more blatantly, John Woo might jolt the nerves of discerning moviegoers. Fleeting smoke silhouettes, slow motion gunfire, and sliding on the floor on one’s knees may look spectacular in moderation, but too much of these make scenes cartoony. And though action flicks bend the concept of reality, Manila Kingpin is not The Matrix. The kalesa chase sequence is a stretch considering that no horses were fictiously harmed in the rain of gunfire. It’s a good example of how aesthetics can make a potentially exciting scene downright laughable.
The plot could have also been solid had the writers knitted all the minor story arcs more closely. Asiong’s lovelife, family life, political involvements, and vendettas against different gang bosses all feel disjointed even if they are placed together in a long string of cause-and-effect events. The dialogue isn’t also that well-written. Though appropriate for its story’s setting, it lacks a certain kind of zing that made early action films memorable. What it has, though, is an abundance of good enough actors to pull off their lines.
Manila Kingpin reminds me of The Expendables. It was able to assemble some of the Philippines’ most notable action heroes and villians and cram them all together in one film. The casting of the five gang bosses was inspired, John Regala as Totoy Golem in particular. Also of note is Joko Diaz, whose father, Pacquito Diaz, starred in the original Asiong film. Each of the bosses are notable, and their fight scenes with Asiong are equally fun to watch.
On the flipside, not much can be said about Asiong’s gang. Despite the very talented ensemble, none of them, except for the incredible Baron Geisler as the group’s Judas, Erning, are given the chance to stand out. Ketchup Eusebio has his moments, but they’re few and far between. And although Dennis Padilla is there to deliver the movie’s “iconic” punchline, it feels as if he was only cast for consistency, to keep the Padillas in almost all Asiong films.
The ladies of the cast hold their own, proving that women can do more than be stay-at-home moms. As usual, Carla Abellana is the epitome of perfection in front of the camera. Her acting matches her classic beauty as it graces the screen. Jaycee Parker is also stunning, if only she wasn’t given any lines. Perhaps the biggest casting oddity is Asiong himself. Although E.R. Ejercito took on the role two decades ago, his age alone makes him a weird choice. There must be something about him that I missed, much like the whole point of this flashy remake.