On The Job (2013)


Mario (Joel Torre)and Daniel (Gerald Anderson) are convicts who are being sneaked out of prison and hired as hit men by a powerfully-connected syndicate. Mario is set for retiring since he is to be released from prison already, while Daniel is his apprentice and heir-apparent. After they bungle a job to execute a policeman, the secure web of protection around them begin to unravel as an idealistic NBI lawyer Francis Coronel Jr. (Piolo Pascual) and a maverick but honest policeman PO1 Joaquin Acosta (Joey Marquez) threaten to throw this assassination ring wide open to its highest levels. "On the Job" is a gritty, honest, no-holds-barred Filipino film. The script by Michiko Yamamoto and Erik Matti fearlessly trace the operations of this gun-for-hire business from the lowly trainees to the gunmen to the middlemen (Vivian Velez) to the connections inside the prison (William Martinez) to the police protectors (Lito Pimentel) to the higher echelons of the military. We also get to peek into the family lives of these men. Mario has a wife (Angel Aquino) who is cuckolding him and a daughter (Empress Schuck) in law school. Francis is married to the daughter (Shaina Magdayao) of a lawmaker (Michael de Mesa) who is the pawn of a corrupt general (Leo Martinez). Joaquin has been at odds with his boss, stuck at being PO1 even after 30 years of service, with a harried wife (Rosanna Roces) and a drug pusher as a son (JM de Guzman). The theme and the style is indie but the stars are big names. It may be considered distracting for indie purists, but this stunt casting of actors against type was actually part of the charm of this film. I have to admit though that the most difficult casting decision to accept was Gerald Anderson, not only because of his attractive mestizo looks (hitmen should not be too conspicuous, should they?), but because he had to act side by side with the flawless Joel Torre. Torre was a man possessed in this role, he was never out of character up to the very end, always very believable and realistic. Piolo Pascual postured a lot in the start, which made his characterization unconvincing at first. However when he got into the groove of his character, especially in the second half, he will get us over on his side. Joey Marquez was a puzzling choice of an actor for a character in this film. At first, during the teasers, I thought he was badly miscast in this role as a cop. But as I was watching the film, I realized the wisdom of his casting. He was key in providing the moments which served to lighten the intense mood this film creates. The technical aspects of the film are very good, particularly the cinematography and the film editing. The atmosphere created was very tense and exciting. The suspense was unbearable as the pacing is frenetic and you would not know what will happen with succeeding scenes. This film is NOT predictable. Despite being an excellent film, there are some cons, but relatively minor issues only. I have already mentioned how the casting of Anderson stretched believability. Also, the addition of what seemed to be unnecessary sex scenes for both Anderson and Pascual sort of derailed from the story a bit.

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