Bio pic of notorious Manila gangster in the late 40's until his death in 1951 at the age of 26. A legend known to this day coming from Tondo, a town in Manila known during those peroid as tough and dangerous place.
Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story wants to recapture the old style of filmmaking. At first glance, I thought it looks pretentious because of the black and white color. But it turns out to be a beautiful aspect to the film. The only thing that stumbles here is the storytelling. It paces to quick and the editing is kinda choppy. Although it has some solid performances and the action is pretty entertaining. Manila Kingpin is still watchable. The cinematography just made it better.
Manila Kingpin is suppose to be a relic. Wants to bring back the old filmmaking. Some parts gives its tone but mostly it doesn't. The storytelling has its missteps. It paces too quick and skips some events. The directing is kind of impressive though. Scenes are nicely shot and every sequence was well played. The acting, Jorge Estregan was fairly good in this film. It's not quite a nuance though but he really nails it when he's holding the guns. Phillip Salvador does his thing but what's fascinating is he looks great in black and white. The rest of the cast also did good and gave some personality to their roles.
The drama can be great for some reason although it tells the story in a sort of messy way but the action never fails to be enjoyable. It's well directed. Though, the editing may jumble some of its sequence and the action doesn't run that long. The kalesa gunfight scene is going to be remembered to the Philippine Cinema. The best thing here is the cinematography. It doesn't only made the picture black and white but it also gives great effect to the aspect. For example: Phillip Salvador's face. These elements made this more than an action drama.
Manila Kingpin is sort of messed up in some parts but it's mostly a satisfying picture to see in MMFF this year. We don't get to see Filipino films like this anymore. Since the Filipino cinema is now plodded with romance, boring horror films, drama cookie-cutter, and comedies played by drag. Manila Kingpin is strongly recommended. It's good to see a Filipino film like this. They say there will be a Director's Cut DVD of this film. I will be looking forward to that soon. "Manila Kingpin" is a very good-looking movie. The remarkable black and white photography is very sharp and striking. The camera angles were very well-placed and dramatic in composition. The period costumes and set design were meticulously planned and paid attention to. All the supporting characters, from Asiong's policeman elder brother Doming (Phillip Salvador), his wife (Carla Abellana), his gang mates (Baron Geisler, Yul Servo, Dennis Padilla, Ketchup Eusebio and Amay Bisaya) to his arch rival Totoy Golem (John Regala), everyone looks and feels right for their respective parts. The action sequences, be they gun battles or fist fights, were quite well-choreographed and executed.
However, the main problem about this film is the lead actor himself, Jeorge 'ER' Ejercito. He did not have the right look nor charisma to pull off this lead character. He tries his best, but there seemed to be difficulty to fit. He did not project well in his scenes with Salvador, Regala, as well as those with Jay Manalo, who played his protector in prison, all of whom can dominate the screen better than Estregan. His scenes with Abellana had an unfortunate DOM ("dirty old man") feel to them, instead of sincere marital love. These problems can be explained when it was revealed at the end that the real Asiong died at the young age of 27! Ejercito must be twice that age already by now, hence the very tight fit.
Overall though, the hard work and sincere efforts for excellence can be felt while watching the film. Director Tikoy Aguiluz certainly seemed to have nothing to be ashamed of with this final print we saw in the theaters, so I am also very curious what these controversial re-shot and re-edited scenes were that caused him to want his name stricken off the project. My one suspicion would be the final gun battle-royale in the rain, which was very well shot, but was curiously scored with the slow version of "Mad World" of Tears for Fears. I felt this score was inappropriate and awkward to the time period and to the culture. An original Filipino sad melody would have been better. Anyway, that is only a minor quibbling observation. This film is worth watching especially for fans who miss traditional Filipino action films. It deserved all the awards given to it during the recent awards night -- Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Production Design, Editing, Sound, and Theme Song. 7cb1d79195
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