So, I might get in trouble for disagreeing with the majority but after seeing the much awaited (and hyped) action movie Buy Bust, I wasn’t as into it as the rest of the moviegoing public. Perhaps it was because I was expecting too much from the movie but the entirety of the film made me think that there were so much opportunities that were wasted in a movie with so much potential. But maybe that’s just me.
Synopsis: After surviving a botched drug operation, agent Nina Manigan (Anne Curtis) finds herself a new team under idealist team leader Bernie Lacson (Victor Neri) and his squad. Manigan finds it hard to work with a squad after her gruesome experience but even before she fully integrates into the team, they get called on an operation to nab Biggie Chen (Arjo Atayde) from his territory in the volatile slums of Tondo. While the details of the operation remains sketchy, Manigan and her team follow their orders like good police officers and find themselves eventually trapped in the area, struggling to stay alive.
Overall, I find that the movie did not lack anything. It had a good story, a good script, and execution wise, it really delivered action like it promised. However, I felt that there were glaring issues that kept me from getting fully invested in the film.
First off, I felt like the film was setting up Anne Curtis to be a badass female protagonist which I really give her credit for trying. Acting was good and she really did a good job executing the action scenes. Despite her cute and kikay image, what audiences saw on screen was a character who was tough as nails. And the addition of former UFC and current One FC heavyweight champ added to credibility of the film that it meant business when it comes to action. The marketing and the hype was all about action and the concept itself seemed very similar to Indonesia’s The Raid: Redemption, which has set the bar for me as the best in the action genre. Everything should have been cut and dried but by its end, I felt that the film was more of a social commentary on the Philippines’ controversial war on drugs than an actual action movie.
From the beginning, the characters, except for Manigan were underdeveloped. Viewers know from the get go that it was going to be a massacre and that officers were going to get killed, it was only a matter of when. It did not bode well for this supposedly elite crew that their leader was too by-the-book to sense danger and out his team’s welfare first before following orders blindly. Nor was it a good sign that the entire team decided to waste their entire ammo on the first salvo of engagement when hey had an entire night to get through hoards and hoards of druggies and henchmen of the notorious Biggie Chen. It was quite disheartening to see how weak these officers were portrayed and as the scenes went on, viewers get the idea where the entire thing was headed.
However, as the cast thinned out and the night wore on, the action scenes got better. As Brandon Vera and Anne Curtis became the only ones left standing, they seemed to have found their footing better and worked together well despite being outnumbered and cornered. That extended montage was great. You have to watch the film to appreciate what I’m talking about. I was just too bothered by the ill fitting background music but it should have warned me about the film’s message.
When the final boss fight came and it was revealed who the real boss was, it kind of went to hell. Instead of an actual, menacing boss fight for the climax, it became a tedious monologue of how corrupt the police force was and how the drug war was actually benefitting those in power. On and on, Biggie Chen went and it just about killed me… with boredom. This extended scene kind of negated the entire hour or so that the film devoted for the struggle of these agents to get out of that hellhole. It seemed like a betrayal of expectations.
Don’t get me wrong. Its all about a matter of taste. Overall, Buy Bust was a good movie and delivered on the requisite action it was hyping about. As usual for an Erik Matti movie, it wanted to say something about society and it was executed perfectly. It made the audience’s heart pound with tension with the action too. Unfortunately, by its end, I couldn’t feel satisfied because it felt duped that it was a drama all along and I endured all the stupidity of the characters just for that one monologue and the news report that summed up the actual state of the drug war in real life. At the same time, I felt guilty and unpatriotic for caring about the entertainment value of the film rather than its core message. But there it is. Feel free to judge me.
PS. This is a belated review because I watched Buy Bust on the cinema. Good news though, its now available on Netflix. 😀