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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Flick Review: Manila Kingpin – The Asiong Salonga Story

01/05/2012 12:45 PM

Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story is a motion picture made by Scenema Concept International, distributed thru VIVA Films. It has an all-star cast led by Jeorge Estregan, Carla Abellana, Phillip Salvador, Joko Diaz, Ketchup Eusebio, Yul Servo, Baron Geisler, Jay Manalo, John Regala, Jaycee Parker, Ping Medina, Paloma, Valerie Concepcion, Dennis Padilla, and a whole lot more. Screenplay by Roy Iglesias and Rey Ventura, Directed by Tikoy Aguiluz and produced by Maylyn Enriquez and Leonard Villalon.

It is one of the seven entries on the 37th Metro Manila Film Festival held from 25 December 2011 to 7 January 2012.

The movie revolves around the life and times of one of the Philippines' "Public Enemy #1" in the name of Nicasio Salonga, popularly known as Hito, Asiong, and Manila Kingpin for his Robin hood-like tactics. He stole money from other gangs to give money to the poor. And self-proclaimed owning Tondo and protecting his people from the other gangsters and rivals. He turned out to be popular then and a Liberal party follower on how he managed to fight and brutally kill his enemy hoodlums. He faced a life sentence but managed to evade these punishments. How strong his advocacy for change, and even his untimely death of that fateful day of 7 October 1951.

However, this film was hampered by controversy inside its personnel and its releases. Movie Director Tikoy Aguiluz took legal action that removed his name from the reel, promotional materials that include even in the side of social media and the internet. His efforts were due to scenes that had been re-shoot without his consent. Another thing is the so-called "sabotage." In fact, this film was shown to only 17 out of 51 movie theaters in Metro Manila on Christmas Day of 2011, prompting lead actor, also known as Laguna Governor ER Ejercito, to cry "Sabotage!"

But here's my take:

  • Technical aspects. Even if there are some bits of lapses, it doesn't matter. They executed things up as perfectly as they could. I'm talking about visual effects, by the way. But the editing says them all; somehow, I have seen few flicks that a movie turned out to be beautiful at some point because of that aspect—the sounds, musical scoring, very appropriately. In some cases or scenes in this film that may go wrong in the viewers' eyes, some factors also filled its gap, which is good to keep the momentum and flow as the story goes by.
  • Story. Well, I know some excerpts of this movie were not really shown or the other way around, but at least what more can I say? Of all the seven entries of MMFF, this thing's a real deal! I mean, real story, real news, everything. And one more thing – Quotable quotes. There are lines from the movie where you can feel the real swag of one's character. The screenplay was excellent. No wonder it won the award. Though, of course, on the flip side, there is some "manipulated" turn of events, still considerable shot.
  • Cast. Nothing more to say. It's always been like every year that every movie entry to the film fest was star-studded. What's the difference in this movie is that perhaps the mixed fusion. There were old veterans of action movies in this one with the younger ones who were representing the other side of today. (You know what I mean, perhaps) 
  • Acting-wise, I can't comment on how they portrayed the role, except that ER had a chance to win the best actor but eventually went to Dingdong Dantes of Segunda Mano. I haven't seen the movie, so I can't comment on that aspect. But for the supporting actors, WOW. There are three entries sent for that award: Phillip Salvador (as Asiong's brother Domeng), Baron Geisler (as Ernesto Reyes a.k.a. Erning Toothpick, Asiong's lead sidekick), and John Regala (as Totoy Golem, one of the main antagonists). Regala won the award that turned out to be his comeback film. Well, it's not wrong to spare his second wind in the movie-making industry considering that he suffered many personal problems, and Estregan, his friend in real life, helped him get back even if they were arch-nemesis in the casting.
  • Soundtrack. I haven't heard any songs from the other movies, but the two tracks showcased in this film were barely impressive. Ely Buendia had a cameo role in one of the scenes where he played the band's singer for the movie "La Paloma," while the other track, "Hari ng Tondo," was performed by rapper Gloc-9 and Denise Barbacena.
  • Scenes that I liked: The first few minutes of the film. The boiling-point drama includes those heavy lines.
  • Though I have something to dislike, that would be the scenes I haven't really understood, even if I saw the entire film for the second time. Specifically when Asiong was sent to bartolina. I did not get it except for the thought that anyone who might be there in that alone, dark room (and possibly with cuffs on your hand and that chain-ball-like thing on your foot) may suffer insanity for a moment.
Overall, It was a highly calibrated film, though underestimated by the conflicts that occurred. It always happens in the entertainment industry (of course, media won't expose much of it unless they will earn from that) truly a memorable motion picture that hopefully sparked a wind for the action films to come back. Untold from the underworld. Brutal but with the bang and sense. Real swagger if you can translate it to therms of the present times. Hard-action. Perhaps.

Well, whether they're running last or not in terms of sales speaking, I can only tell another thing: This film deserves to win! If not here, then at the international side of life. (Well, it's pretty impressive that they have won several awards in the last year's awarding night) As the rift goes, ER hopefully reconciles with Tikoy Aguiliuz soon, though there's an issue that Aguiluz wants his cut to be released for international contests. Well, let's see the developments about it, though. The lead actor, whose uncle, former Philippine President Joseph Estrada, has also played the lead role of the same movie in 1961, insists that the goal is not to be the festival box-office top-grosser. "Our objective is to make a quality film that we can proudly send to festivals abroad." He is pleased with the high mark from the CEB. "It made us forget all the hardships and sleepless nights."

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