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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 25, 2013

Kabisera Movie Review: Well Acted, Well Crafted Crime Drama

OUR FIRST reaction upon watching the Cinema One Plus category best actor and best director winner, "Kabisera", is that it's the local version of "Breaking Bad", the hit Emmy Award-winning Hollywood TV series about a chemistry teacher who descends into a life of crime and becomes a drug manufacturer, pusher and even a ruthless murderer. Cinema One head Ronald Arguelles says the script for "Kabisera" was written four years ago yet, but "Breaking Bad" just ended it's fifth season since it started airing in January 2008 yet.

We're not saying "Kabisera" copied the series that starred the much acclaimed Bryan Cranston, but whatever, "Kabisera" can stand on its own as a gripping and effective drama about a fisherman, Andres (Joel Torre), who finds a treasure trove of forbidden drugs in the high seas meant for Muslim drug traffickers. It becomes his ticket to give a better life to his wife (Bing Pimentel) and their two kids. We honestly think it's even more deserving to win the best picture award in the festival rather than "Alamat ni China Doll" that appears so incomplete and unfinished.

Well written by Director Alfonso Torre III (a nephew of Joel), the narrative is actually quite layered, examining the relationship of Andres with his best friend (Art Acuna) who helps him market the drugs and as a very controlling father to his kids whose lives he deliberately interferes with. Some well kept secrets will be revealed between him and his best friend who eventually becomes a pawn in a power struggle between him and a cop (Bernard Palanca). The story gets darker when Joel, in his desire to keep his daughter (Meryll Soriano) stay with them in the province, even ordered the killing of her husband (Carlo Cruz) in the city. And there's no retribution as Joel's crimes go unpunished as the movie ends.

After his smashing portrayal of an aging hitman in "On the Job", Joel Torre delivers his second solid compelling performance in the same year as Andres in "Kabisera" (Head of the Table.) He crackles and sizzles in a lot of scenes, well supported by Bing Pimentel as his tolerant wife, and Art, Bernard and Ketchup Eusebio as his partners in crime who all deliver similarly superb portrayals.

This well crafted and absorbing film deserves a wide theatrical release even without big name stars because it's structured and constructed to be accessible to ordinary viewers, unlike the other obscure Cinema One entries that will be appreciated by only the people who made them and will cater to only a very limited market.