Film pick: Metro Manila (NC16)

115 minutes
3 and a 1/2 star out of 5

Rice farmer Oscar (Jake Macapagal) is forced to take his wife Mai (Althea Vega) and children to Manila to find work after rice prices collapse. He falls prey to various scams until he lands a job as a security guard on an armoured car because of his military experience.

Directing the work is British writer-director Sean Ellis who, like British film-maker and Jakarta resident Gareth Evans (The Raid, 2011) and Danish-American Nicolas Winding Refn (Only God Forgives, 2013), sees Asia through a lens fogged with romanticism, but as long as the product is entertaining, one should not mind. After all, we all create myths about our own cities, why should an outsider not be allowed the same privilege?

Ellis, in contrast to the recent crop of auteurs using South-east Asia as a film canvas, has rooted his story in a realistic and contemporary social milieu. The film's trailer and poster suggest more gunplay than there really is; the strength of Ellis' storytelling is shown by how it feels as if a lot more action has happened that actually transpires.

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