OTJ Movie Review – 8/10

OTJ (On The Job), directed by Eric Matti, features Gerald Anderson and Joel Torre as leads. Joey Marquez, Piolo Pascual, Angel Aquino, Shaina Magdayao, Michael de Mesa and Leo Martinez are supporting cast to name a few.

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Gerald and Joel play convicts who are often hired by a corrupt General (Leo Martinez) via a middle man (Vivian Velez) to perform assassinations. They easily ‘escape’ in and out of the jail system via the help of William Martinez, a scarily believable corrupt jail guard. Both have families they provide for, unaware they are convicts, and use alibis such as working out of town to explain their comings and goings.

Piolo is an NBI agent while Joey Marquez plays a SPO1 policeman with 30 years on the force. his character is torn between his desire to do the right thing and his loyalty to his father in law Michael de Mesa, a wheeling and dealing Congressman with close ties to Leo Martinez’s character, the main baddie.

Joey Marquez’s performance is nothing less than a revelation. His constantly swearing SPO1 Acosta is rough and starts and ends his sentences with a flurry of ‘puta!’, but he is clean and determined to solve the murders. He is so good that I feel he deserves the most praise. Not only do you feel the role was tailor made for him, but even in the parts where his character flies off the handle he remains believable.

Although I feel Marquez’s was the best he certainly wasn’t the only one who did well. The movie in fact bursts with great performances. From Anderson’s over eager, naive hit man in training to Joel Torre’s meaningful long looks at him as he was starting to learn to become a professional, from Angel Aquino’s startled screams at the end and even to Leo Martinez’s short explanation as to who runs the country, this movie is a tour de force. Even the scenes where Joey Marquez deals with his son turned drug pusher, while short, is strong in emotion and demands empathy. It is a delight to see actors relish their roles and you see this happening here.

Equally terrific is the direction. Matti brings great color, a vivid life to every scene. The lengthy scene where Torre and Anderson are lead back into prison by Martinez set to a (what I think is) Juan de la Cruz is absolutely perfect. Manila is the recognizably dirty dingy slum we know it is, delivered unapologetically as we expect it to be with its seedy slums, dimly lit hospitals and traffic. You can almost smell the barbecue smoke as Torre and Anderson disappear into a crowd just before carrying out a job.

Where the movie falls short is the story. The first 30 minutes are its finest, where introduction and explanation of the lead’s characters is carried out in an organic manner keeping the audience interested. It gets lengthy around where Piolo and Marquez are introduced along with their own back stories and you start wondering where all of it is going. The part where it fails most is the love scenes in the middle, featuring no less than three couples getting it on, with Anderson’s character making the least sense given the girl he is with is introduced way into the middle and looks to have been placed there only for the purpose of them having a sex scene. It is painful to watch at that point, but once it gets going interest comes back.

Watch this movie for the acting and for the excellent movie making. There are individual scenes that are carried out with precision and great imagination, from the prison scene I mentioned above to (spoiler alert) Torre’s revenge on Angel’s character. These were finely crafted, meticulously guided sequences that you can’t help feel were laid out to the audience with relish by the director, almost as if he thought of them for years and is happy to have them finally carried out. I thoroughly enjoyed those and actually replay Torre’s in my head.

There are huge chunks of this movie I felt it could have done without which would have made this not only shorter but more linear and on point. It is terrific regardless. Meatier, more engrossing and definitely smarter than your typical Pinoy shoot em up. It is well worth the action movie afficionado’s time and then some.

UPDATE 30aug2013

I was right, the soundtrack was Juan de la Cruz although it was a version by Dong Abay, found that out through here. Their wiki page should be updated with the music information, I’d buy it asap.

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