ContactSales: XYZ Films, Marina Del Rey, California ([email protected])
Premiere: Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), 24 May 2013. Theatrical release: Philippines, 28 Aug 2013.
Presented by Star Cinema (PH), Reality Entertainment (PH). Produced by Reality Entertainment (PH). Producer: John Paul E. Abellera. Executive producers: Ronald "Dondon" Monteverde, Leonardo T. Po, Charo Santos-Concio, Malou N. Santos.
Script: Michiko Yamamoto, Erik Matti. Original story: Erik Matti. Photography: Francis Ricardo Buhay III. Editing: Jay Halili. Music: Erwin Romulo. Production design: Richard V. Somes. Art direction: Michael Español, Rashem Gumacal. Costumes: Eivy Rose Lavalle. Sound: Corrine de San Jose. Action: Richard V. Somes. Visual effects: David Yu, Miguel Javier (Mothership).
Cast: Piolo Pascual (Francis Coronel Jr.), Gerald Anderson (Daniel), Joel Torre (Mario Maghari, aka Tatang), Joey Marquez (Sergeant Joaquin Acosta), Michael de Mesa (Manrique), Leo Martinez (General Pacheco), Angel Aquino (Lulette, Tatang's wife), Vivian Velez (Thelma), Shaina Magdayao (Nicky, Francis' wife), William Martinez (Rex), Rayver Cruz (Bernabe, Francis' sidekick), Empress Schuck (Tina, Tatang's daughter), Dawn Jimenez (Diane, Daniel's girlfriend), Lito Pimentel (Pol), Michael Flores (Freddie), Al Tantay (Niel Salcedo, chief of police), Niño Muhlach (Ramon), Baldo Maro (Esteban), Mon Confiado (Boy), Mark Andaya (Simeon), Jayvee Gayoso (NBI chief), Irene Celebre (Daniel's mother), Mike Castillo (Badong), Iking Santos (Rex's assistant), Jhappy Bahian (prison food server), Stephen Ku (Johnny Tiu), Joger Go (Charlie Tiu), Cristy Fulgar (Linda Carag), Joel Saracho (driver), Ronald Santos (janitor), Marites Guillen (hospital nurse), Glenn Picazo (gay prisoner).
On the Job
Contemporary crime thriller
2013, colour, 16:9, 121 mins
Directed by Erik Matti
By Derek Elley
Wed, 29 May 2013, 16:20 PM (HKT)
Gritty, tenebrous crime thriller centred on hitmen and crimefighters in Manila's underbelly. Asian and genre events, plus niche theatrical potential.
Metro Manila, the present day. In Quezon City, during a carnival, two hitmen, Mario Maghari, aka Tatang (Joel Torres), and his young apprentice Daniel (Gerald Anderson), shoot dead Johnny Tiu (Stephen Ku), a drug-dealer. Tatang and Daniel perform their hits on day-release from prison clandestinely arranged for them to provide the perfect alibi. By the time the hunt is on, they're back behind bars, as if nothing happened. The hit, co-ordinated by Thelma (Vivian Velez), was ordered ultimately by General Pacheco (Leo Martinez), a candidate in the forthcoming presidential election who is removing any contacts who could endanger his chances of winning. The case of Johnny Tiu is investigated by Francis Coronel Jr. (Piolo Pascual), an agent with the National Bureau of Investigation, and Sergeant Joaquin Acosta (Joey Marquez), a local policeman. As the hits continue, and the two begin to piece together what is going on, both find themselves in danger. Francis finds himself at odds with Pacheco's running mate, Manrique (Michael de Mesa), who is the father of his wife Nicky (Shaina Magdayao).
Reportedly the first Filipino crime thriller in a decade — in an industry dominated by rom-coms, horror movies and gay comedies — On the Job was inspired by a driver once telling director Erik MATTI that he'd worked as a hitman while in prison. The high-concept idea (of a killer being sneaked in and out of jail, and thus having a perfect alibi) stayed with Matti, who finally started developing the project some four years ago by shooting an eight-minute promo, entitled OJT, to raise finance. The final result is the grittiest and hardest-driven movie in the career so far of the maverick Matti (Prosti (2002), Gagamboy (2004), Rigodon (2012), Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles (2012)), who layers a basically simple idea with multiple characters, busy direction, highly atmospheric photography and restless cutting to create a noir-ish portrait of a city (Metro Manila) in which violence and corruption is endemic to the point of normality.
On the Job is very much an ensemble creation by editor Jay HALILI and d.p. Francis Ricardo BUHAY III, both of whom worked on Matti's werewolves spectacular Tiktik and erotic drama Rigodon, as well as by Japanese-Filipina scriptwriter Michiko YAMAMOTO, who worked for director Jade CASTRO prior to writing Matti's short Vesuvius (2012), and p.d./action director Richard V. SOMES, who worked on Prosti and Gagamboy. (Somes, Matti's nephew, is also a director in his own right, such as the weird and sometimes wonderful Mariposa in the Cage of the Night Mariposa sa hawla ng gabi (2012) and low-budget aswang horror Affliction Yanggaw (2008).) The movie starts with a street assassination by the two day-release hitmen and then busily draws a whole universe of killers, prisoners, cops, corrupt politicians and their families that, for the first 45 minutes, sweeps the viewer along in a series of sequences that build character without actually making clear what is going on. Just as the plot mists start to clear, and one character starts to explain what is happening, Matti throws in a nail-biting chase that starts in a hospital and fans out into the night streets.
It's a movie that slowly sucks the audience in as the structure becomes clearer — a gamble by Matti that pays off in the end but could still take a few trims and clearer organisation in the first half. What keeps the viewer hooked are the performances: veteran Joel TORRE as the seasoned, avuncular hitman, younger Gerald ANDERSON cast against type as the apprentice he teaches to cold-bloodedly kill, handsome Piolo PASCUAL as the conflicted NBI agent on their trail, and especially actor-politician Joey MARQUEZ (the father in Tiktik) as a local cop who teams up with Pascual's agent. The relationship between the first two and the latter two are what give the movie emotional depth beyond the gritty action scenes and the umbrous sequences set in the prison (which functions like a real-life barrio). As a result, the film's most surprising twist near the end — a typically playful one by Matti — is as shocking as it is disorienting. Female roles are minimal and not especially memorable.
At the end of the day, On the Job is simply a well-packaged, tenebrous crime thriller with a clever idea, and doesn't pretend to be anything more. Its high-up villains are standard politicians, and its heroes and killers are street-level types who operate in a separate universe. For local release, the film will have minor changes, including the addition of another sex scene.