10 reasons we love Erik Matti’s “On The Job”

1. BECAUSE it’s been awhile since we saw a decent action film from Philippine Cinema. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a local action film, period.

2. BECAUSE while it is an action film, the hero does not have a predilection for spouting one-liners just before he pulls the trigger (the dialogue throughout avoids calling attention to itself). Also, because there are no heroes in this movie, just, ugh, complex human beings. No, really.

3. BECAUSE there’s something quite refreshing (and delightfully nostalgic) about seeing former movie superstars – William Martinez, Vivian Velez, Nino Muhlach, Rosanna Roces – return to the big screen where they clearly belong, and in a project that’s neither a small-time indie or a B-movie.

4. BECAUSE its nice to see Joel Torre in a movie equal to his brilliance and intensity. He’s supposedly been internalizing the role of Tatang, the experienced assassin, for four years now beginning when Erik Matti asked him to play lead in it’s eight-minute teaser that went the rounds of international festivals in 2009.

5. BECAUSE Gerald gets it on with Dawn Jimenez and Papa P with (the surprisingly daring) Shaina Magdayao – and its clear the man behind the camera is a heterosexual male whose main goal is not to cover this or that body part in shadows or to quickly pan to the vignette on the bedside table.

6. BECAUSE of its kickass music. Dong Abay opens the film with a haunting rendition of the Juan dela Cruz song “Maskara,” and Up Dharma Down’s Armi Millare cloaks the third act with her otherworldly vocals, with a little help from a guy named Ely Buendia on guitar.

7. BECAUSE just when you thought he’s no longer capable of surprising you, and that he’d be the last person you’d think would be convincing in an action flick, or that all he’d do in the movie is look absolutely, mind-blowingly handsome, Piolo Pascual – especially in that scene where he confronts the Leo Martinez character after he finds out a major truth from his past – proves he’s still one of the best actors in the country no matter the pretenders to his throne. Also, he does look absolutely, mind-blowingly handsome, and you do take a moment to admire it, but it hardly disrupts the film’s highlight-a-minute proceedings.

8. BECAUSE Gerald Anderson clearly upped his game for this movie, and the result is impressive. Playing the protege to Joel Torre’s veteran gun-for-hire, the heartthrob gives a surprising quiet sensitivity to his character Daniel and – maybe unconsciously – an innate naive confidence and a swagger of a neophyte thug. We know John Lloyd Cruz had this part in the beginning, but Gerald makes the role his own you couldn’t imagine any other local actor – not even JLC – essaying it onscreen.

9. BECAUSE we’ve never seen so much of Manila in one movie, and we love being reminded of how awesomely cinematic and brimming with character this city is, and how its heart beats even in the ungodly hours: the cramped loobans of Caloocan, matchbox dwellings by the bridge, the PNR, the MRT, the wet streets of Escolta in the evening, and the retro interiors of cheap downtown motels. (In contrast, the milieu in which underground “business” deals take place are spotless, grand and polished: golf courses, health clubs, government buildings, etc).

10. BECAUSE, while all other indie films’ portrayal of the city is its collective trash and pee, this is Manila photographed with honesty and great affection.

OTJ (On The Job), directed by Erik Matti and starring Piolo Pascual, Gerald Anderson, Joel Torre, and Joey Marquez, is now on cinemas.

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