#FilmFriday: Action -- More fun in the PH?
MANILA, Philippines - While attending a conference in the UK, I got to hit the comic book store Forbidden Planet.
It was geek Mecca. While most of the things being sold there were of decidedly Western origins, on posters on the wall, on their plastic bags, and playing on the store TVs was the Indonesian film "The Raid: Redemption."
From the trailers alone, I knew the flick was something I would want to watch in theaters. Too bad that when I got back home it wasn't showing anymore. I was able to get a copy recently, and I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the action scenes.
Not only are they intense, but they also have lots of variety in the form of chases, gun fights, knife fights, and hand-to-hand combat. Though it all happens in one apartment building, the surroundings provide for some pretty amazing sequences, like an epic corridor fight. It is just a bad-ass piece of action filmmaking.
All the international attention the film garnered was more than deserved. It stands not just as a good action movie for something produced outside of Hollywood, but it is essential action viewing, period.
I wish that Filipino action movies could get similar attention.
It's not that I want the approval of the West in some subconscious manifestation of post-colonial inclinations. What I want is their money. More specifically, I want to draw in the kind of money that "The Raid" and Hong Kong action movies and Chinese kung fu movies have drawn.
Imagine that kind of attention, and then money, being funneled into the local film industry. That would be amazing.
With bigger budgets to work with, we could produce even more outstanding action movies — the kinds of movies that would be sold in the most prominent stores all over the world.
I know that some people might scoff at the idea, especially in relation to the kinds of films that most studios are producing now. True, the action genre is neither top in grosses, nor top in generating attention. But we do have a strong action movie tradition.
Our action movie tradition is so rich and powerful that it catapulted one man to the presidency, and brought the presidency in reach of another action star. How many action stars do we have in Senate? In Congress? Local government?
This isn't to say that it is a good thing that these are the people occupying such positions, but merely to illustrate how action movies have the ability to capture the hearts and minds of Pinoy viewers. As a side note, it's pretty clear that some recent action films are really political propaganda for those looking to the upcoming elections.
Though we don't have as many action movies as we once did, I think the audience is still there. For all of its sometimes laughable moments, something like "Manila Kingpin" shows not only that local filmmakers have the skill and flair to do action, but also that there is a local audience that would love to watch Filipino action movies.
I might be wrong about this, but after having recently re-watched John Woo's "Hard-Boiled," I couldn't help but think, "This is something that we could have done in the Philippines."
Which is not to say that we should be copying Hong Kong action. Rather, I was thinking that, when you watch that film, it is very clear that the budget is limited. It isn't flashy Hollywood, and it seems like its budget would not be very far from the kind local films draw on.
So if film production costs are limited in the Hong Kong movie and the Pinoy, where did the difference come in?
One might say that it's because they have John Woo, and they have amazing fight coordinators. Agreed, it was Woo's aesthetics and style which elevated "Hard-Boiled" to becoming an action epic. But I do believe that local filmmakers have that kind of ambition too, that we have the skill and creativity to produce similarly ground-breaking work.
And regarding those fight coordinators, well, they used Filipino martial arts for "Bourne," "300," "Star Wars," and a while bunch of other flicks. We are the go-to for knife combat. (Although I would have to admit that whenever someone says Pinoy action, I wind up thinking of the "multiple-body-shots-end-with-the-pompyang" combo.)
I would love to see a film (though I do remember and still love Ronnie Ricketts's "Mano Mano") that highlights local martial arts like Arnis. It would be similar to what films like "The Raid" and "Ong Bak" did for Pencak Silat and Muay Thai, respectively.
I think we've got some great martial arts, some great martial artists, and with the global market so receptive to action flicks, why not show the world what we can do?
I refuse to believe that we do not have the capacity to make films like "The Raid: Redemption" or "Hard Boiled" or "Ong Bak." I am sure there are filmmakers lapping up all these action flicks and raring to make their own, flicks that will rejuvenate Filipino action and bring in a new kind of action flick.
I often find myself standing in line for Hollywood and Hong Kong action movies. I am looking forward to greeting Filipino action films with similar excitement. - Rappler.com
Carljoe Javier doesn't know why people think he's a snarky film critic who spends his time dashing the hopes of filmgoers. He thinks he's not all that bad, really. He teaches at the State U, writes books, and studies film, comics, and video games... Then again, those people could be right.