Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Michael Moore Says Clint Eastwood Threatened To "Kill" Him 10 Years Ago, Calls 'American Sniper' A "Mess" Michael Moore Says Clint Eastwood Threatened To "Kill" Him 10 Years Ago, Calls 'American Sniper' A "Mess" Woody Allen’s Next Movie With Joaquin Phoenix & Emma Stone Titled ‘Irrational Man,’  Sony Pictures Classics Nab Rights Woody Allen’s Next Movie With Joaquin Phoenix & Emma Stone Titled ‘Irrational Man,’ Sony Pictures Classics Nab Rights Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel'  Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel' 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See The 10 Best Films Of 2007 The 10 Best Films Of 2007 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

Review: Filipino Thriller 'On The Job' A Familiar But Exciting Echo Of 'The Departed'

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist September 27, 2013 at 1:06PM

The Philippines gets their own “Infernal Affairs” with “On the Job,” a propulsive new actioner. It’s not a remake of that Hong Kong hit, but it features the same cops-and-criminals conflict and stock moral ambiguity that turned that earlier film, and “The Departed,” into an ethical funhouse mirror for its protagonists. And hey, the action isn’t bad either. If you wanted a Filipino film from less-skilled filmmakers who worship at the altar of Johnny To and Michael Mann, you could do worse.
2
On The Job

The Philippines gets their own “Infernal Affairs” with “On the Job,” a propulsive new actioner. It’s not a remake of that Hong Kong hit, but it features the same cops-and-criminals conflict and stock moral ambiguity that turned that earlier film, and “The Departed,” into an ethical funhouse mirror for its protagonists. And hey, the action isn’t bad either. If you wanted a Filipino film from less-skilled filmmakers who worship at the altar of Johnny To and Michael Mann, you could do worse.

The film’s deceptively simple twist is announced beforehand as we spend a considerable amount of time with Tatang and Daniel, two hitmen who register kills in broad daylight before heading back into their cells at night. Yes, this is based on a true story: apparently prison inmates were being used as traceless killers to erase liabilities for crooked cops and politicians in the Philippines. It’s a great hook, and it’s sexed up by Joel Torre and Gerald Anderson as the two gunmen in question. Torre, as the grizzled, mature Tatang, is an ace with firearms, and the actor bears a strong resemblance to a younger, cagier Joe Mantegna. Anderson, as young upstart Daniel, is younger and prettier, a more ethnic (and infinitely more appealing) version of Sam Worthington.

On The Job

Tatang takes the lead in most assignments, with Daniel playing backup, neutralizing any spontaneous threats. Tatang seeks retirement, and soon he’ll be able to go home to his wife and college-age daughter. Daniel, with no family of his own, is more ruthless: he strikes up a deceptively friendly relationship with Tatang, his mentor. Tatang is smart enough to know that Daniel wants to be the point man in future assignments. The light sketch character work done by director Erik Matti reveals that Daniel’s endearing enthusiasm and affection for Tatang is genuine, as is his financial desperation, sending bills home to his own dying mother. It’s not exactly gripping tension at work, but it’s functional.

The less-successful material belongs to Francis Colonel Jr., the young cop who is marrying up the chain by getting engaged to the pretty daughter of a superior. What he is soon stunned—stunned!—to know is that his father-in-law and his fellow cronies are dirty, and they rig elections and supervise drug deals and assassinations in their free time. It’s unclear why these guys wouldn’t vet anyone this girl dates, and why his steadfast principles are such a surprise, but this is the nature of plot contrivance: just join everyone in media res, and let these philosophies clash.

On The Job

Colonel’s main interest soon becomes Tatang and Daniel, who seem to disappear and reappear from their jail bunks with only a few people half-heartedly asking questions. This puts him in direct conflict with his bosses, but surely there’s got to be a more legal way, right? This conflict is captured accurately by the casting: the police bigwigs are older, more weathered types. But Colonel is played by the boyishly handsome Piolo Pascual. When he busts into an action scene, it looks like he’s ready for a fashion catalog. When you think “Filipino action movie” you don’t really think beefcake, but Pascual and Anderson have definite cross-cultural sex appeal. Would anyone really quarrel if Anderson, with his easy smile and bedroom eyes, replaced Sam Worthington in the next “Avatar”?

The workmanlike precision of “On the Job” carries through to its action scenes, none of which are shot with any flash or style, but are edited with a propulsive pace and performed by a watchable cast enough to make them engaging. The true story is inherently compelling, but director Matti can never seem to use the real-life case, or these cop tropes, to mine for any deeper truth. What’s left is a particularly colorful procedural, one with slightly interesting shades, from the transsexual prison wing where Daniel is ogled and worshipped to Tatang’s possibly unfaithful wife pretending to honor her husband’s dubious legal arrangement. It’s a dish that you’ve tasted before, but maybe this extra seasoning will prevent déjà vu. [B-]

This article is related to: Reviews, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates