Fresh from their successful run at the Directors’ Fortnight section of this year’s Cannes Film Festival last May, Erik Matti’s crime thriller finally find its way into Philippine theaters, as Star Cinema and Reality Entertainment release OTJ (On the Job) which stars Piolo Pascual, Gerald Anderson, Joel Torre, and Joey Marquez among others.
Inspired by true events, the film gives an extensive depiction of how some jailed members were being released from prison every now and then as they’re assigned with the task of killing people under orders from the wealthy and influential. In the film, the specific gunmen happens to be Tatang (Joel Torre) and his protege Daniel (Gerald Anderson) who is being groomed to be his replacement once he retires. Tatang takes and trains Daniel under his wing as they do their assignments. On the flipside, there’s NBI official Francis Coronel, Jr. (Piolo Pascual) who was tasked to take over these said cases, as well as police office Acosta (Joey Marquez). Once their paths crossed provides conflict in the film.
There’s a lot of great things to say about this, but If there’s a clear standout in it, no doubt it is Erik Matti. His slick direction is the main core which holds the film together and gives it the necessary oomph. I like how he weaves these scenes and events seamlessly which makes for an intense and thrilling ride. The rest of the technical achievements were on point as well, with Richard Somes’ production design and Francis Buhay III’s cinematography portraying Manila in a very artistic and sensible manner, that of a series of tasteful photographs that’s well done.
The story and pacing smoothly complimented each other. I like how the intensity just builds up right from the get go during the first scene up until the last one. The chase and fight scenes were tastefully pulled off. It’s also great to see characters that were fleshed out especially that of the three main characters. We get to know them more instead of simply just following what they do. This is one of the things I like about the film in terms of characterization, we get a glimpse of their individual lives as opposed to just going right at the center of the conflict.
This film pretty much shows what an ensemble really is. There are really no small roles here, as everyone’s given something to do and they all did their parts well. Gerald Anderson’s greatest acting achievement prior to this is a television stint as mentally challenged Budoy, but this character suits him like a glove and challenges his acting chops for the better. It’s nothing new to claim that Joel Torre is a great actor, but this will probably end up as one of his most memorable turns in his discography. Piolo Pascual is the good guy of course, so this isn’t much of a stretch for him, but it’s great to see that he wasn’t phoning it in. But, I like how Erik Matti brings out the best in Joey Marquez. He already gave us a glimpse of it in last year’s Tiktik, but this was more prevalent in here. Special props to Vivian Velez’ kick ass role.
Given everything that’s actually happening in the country right now, one can somehow juxtapose this with the events in the film too. This will probably make the experience more insightful for others in terms of understanding the events or the aftermath of it. Films that make a statement is a hit or miss for me, but I like that this one doesn’t spoonfeed it to the audience.
I would have loved to see the version that was shown at Cannes since I’ve learned that it was slightly different from what was shown here. Nevertheless, On the Job is such a breath of fresh air in terms of current Philippine cinema effectively combining style and substance in a savvy manner. I might as well say it’s one (if not the) movie event of the year.
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