British director Sean Ellis follows Peter Strickland (Katalin Varga), Gareth Edwards (Monsters, UK, 2010) and Gareth Evans (The Raid, Indonesia-US-France, 2011) in moving abroad to get their films made: the Philippines, Mexico and Indonesia respectively. Basically it’s cheaper; Ellis reportedly remortgaged his house to help fund Metro Manila. These are all good films and indicative of the increasing ‘transnationality’ of the film industry. Whilst Hollywood is looking to China for its box office salvation, Ellis chooses to make a film that is rooted in its setting and, indirectly, comments upon globalisation. It’s true, though, that the narrative of ‘innocent’ farmers being forced to the city after being unable to make a living off the land could be told in many places.
Ellis shoots cheaply and the cast translated his English script into (street) Tagalog as it was filmed. The principals are all excellent with special mention for Jake Macapagal as the ‘good man’, Oscar, forced into terrible circumstances. He conveys, with the merest hint of a change of expression, his distress in finding his decency assaulted at almost every turn. The first part of the film is a suitably depressing tale of the exploited underclass before the film morphs into a thriller as Oscar tries to provide for his family.
I watched the film the day I read about Martin Sorrel’s £40m pay packet for doing his job last year. I struggle to understand why such people need incentives to do a good job, for which they are well paid anyway. The truth is such obscene ‘wages’ directly cause the poverty suffered by the underclasses of the world. The cost of the self important, who believe they are worth more than most, is a hellish existence for many. Ellis’ film depicts the degradation of the world’s ‘losers’ with great skill.