Film Notes
by Pablo A. Tariman

Pedring Lopez’s “Nilalang” has many things going for it one of which is its unconventional kind of storytelling which remains engrossing as one follows the tale of a curse that could have started centuries back in Japan.

The story isn’t homegrown as the setting changes between early times in Japan to the present crime-ridden Manila.

Cesar Montano with cast of  "Nilalang." A well-chiselled role in an engrossing suspense thriller.

Cesar Montano with cast of “Nilalang.” A well-chiseled role in an engrossing suspense thriller.

Is it possible the presence of the Yakuza in Manila is part of that curse and that it is behind the gruesome crimes that keep law-enforcing agencies busy?

The film partly entertains this possibility and in process we get to see the richness of the cinematic imagination of the filmmaker.

Then we are brought to the work-a-day world of NBI agents who are themselves perplexed by the bloody nature of the killings.

To be sure, this film fascinates as it bombards the audience with quick images of the country’s past and how its Japanese connections made crime-solving as complex as the story the film pursues with endless fascination.

Easily, the film’s outstanding virtues are its editing and cinematography and the pulse-pounding film scoring that adds to the suspense.

For one, the special effects dazzle as the film pursues an unlikely story that can only exist in the filmmaker’s imagination. There is a good slice of Japan’s colorful past and an uncomfortable scenario of local law enforcing agencies probably in cahoots with the Yakuza.

But the story is beside the point as we feast on Lopez’s riveting cinematic devices. Midway in the screening, you get the pregnant messages of the film telling us the crimes in our midst are more than meet the eyes.

Cesar Montano with Maria Ozawa in "Nilalang."

Cesar Montano with Maria Ozawa in “Nilalang.”

The choice of the actors is commendable and here we see another facet of Cesar Montano as an actor. The acting is low-key but easily daunting and you easily agree he is the best choice to replace Robin Padilla.

Because the role calls for more than a dose of action and more of the introspective kind. His best scenes are when he found out the murder of his girl-friend (briefly played by Aubrey Miles) and the show of rage is indeed real and compelling.

Another excellent performance is delivered by actor Dido de la Paz as Col Guevarra who figures in good ensemble acting with NBI colleagues played by Kiko Matos and company.

The ensemble actors are equally laudable like this man digging a grave and finds himself transformed into the enemy they are looking for.

Adult film actor Maria Ozawa fits very well as a Yakuza kin and her brand of acting shines in the quality of her silent moments. Even Meg Imperial as the female NBI agent looks the part and so is the brief but marked role of Sam Concepcion as the daughter of a Japanese elderly who holds the mysterious key on how to stop the killings.

How the film ends is the big surprise for the moviegoers who might just get dizzy with some of the gory scenes of the movie.

To be sure, “Nilalang” has far more critical inputs than it shows in its entirety. It isn’t a very conventional story, it isn’t your idea of a typical action picture because it chooses to plumb deep into the nature of crimes happening in Metro Manila and pursues a believable theory.

What one is sure of is that moviegoers who want something different will be amply rewarded in this unusual entry in the coming Metro Manila Film Festival.

Like it or not, it is an action-thriller like no other.

“Nilalang” directed by Pedring Lopez opens on Christmas Day.

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