"On the Job" is a sturdy and sophisticated crime drama from the Philippines that takes a pretty gruesome situation and enriches its presentation with lots of human detail.
Crimes don’t get much worse than this: Corrupt elements within the government are assassinating their rivals, using prisoners who are already in jail. They are covertly letting hit teams out on furlough. These teams commit the murders, and then they are sneaked back into prison. With airtight alibis, who would ever think of suspecting them? And the prisoners-assassins benefit by earning extra money and time off their sentences — it’s win-win.
|‘ON THE JOB’
Opens today at Pearlridge 16
(In English and in Tagalog with English subtitles)
It’s the point of view that makes "On the Job" special. We follow a pair of assassins, as well as two honest cops on their trail, and the movie persuades us to sympathize with both sides. The assassins are sympathetic because they are pawns, and they have a certain tenderness, at least toward each other. The cops are sympathetic because they are on the bottom of the totem pole, trying to figure out the size and depth of the scandal. Both are victims of the people at the top.
Joel Torre gives the most memorable performance as an assassin and family man killing people all over the city because he wants to come home to his very attractive and much younger wife. He also needs money to put his daughter through law school, of all things. Pilo Pascual is very good as an up-and-coming political star, who has to choose between his ambition and his conscience.
"On the Job" has an assurance, a feeling of context about it — it just doesn’t feel like the one lone good film in a bereft cinematic landscape. It makes you wonder what else is happening these days on Philippines movie screens.