‘Buybust’ is a bloody, funny film from the Philippines
  • Sunday, January 20, 2019
  • 69°


‘Buybust’ is a bloody, funny film from the Philippines


    Anne Curtis portrays a narcotics agent who gets trapped in druglord-controlled territory in “BuyBust.”



2 and a half stars

(Not rated, 2:07)

Featuring one villain in leopard pants and another in a bathrobe, “BuyBust” is surprisingly funny for a movie that’s basically a massacre in progress. Wrapping a political-corruption yarn in a blanket of bullets and blood, the Filipino director and co-writer, Erik Matti, slides visual and textual jokes into the mayhem in ways both sly and blatant. This tongue-in-cheek approach (including a delicious little ditty played over the end credits) doesn’t lessen the impact of his heroine’s journey, but it does significantly ease the tedium of the virtually nonstop slaughter.

Casting an even more withering eye on Filipino society than he did in his 2013 thriller, “On the Job,” Matti locks onto Manigan (an impressive Anne Curtis), a recent transfer to an elite narcotics squad. When a raid on a gang-infested Manila slum goes wildly awry, Manigan and her fellow officers battle to extricate themselves from a constantly replenishing army of crazed opponents and maddened residents. Over the course of one endless, dizzying night, cops and criminals and civilians blur, and everyday items are creatively weaponized: that poor soul battered by a cactus then decapitated by garden shears probably just wanted to complain about the noise.

As the squad is gradually depleted, Manigan’s increasingly solitary struggle becomes one of moral awakening and a vehicle for her director’s sour social commentary. You don’t have to know anything about President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial war on drugs, though, to appreciate Neil Derrick Bion’s exhilarating cinematography. Zipping through rain-soaked, trash-strewn alleyways, bouncing off walls and leaping skyward, his camera dodges every blow and bullet.

“This will get ugly,” Manigan tells her companion near the end. Not if Bion has anything to do with it.

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