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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.

Feb 19, 2016

Tandem Movie Review: Riding-In-Tandem Brothers And The Lives They Lead In Our Fractious Society

ROMAN (Nico Antonio) and Rex (JM de Guzman) are brothers and also partners in crime as riding-in-tandem robbers snatching bags from clueless bystanders. Roman was jailed before so he is more cautious, but Rex is restless and aggressive, all fired up to do more grievous crimes. Roman’s wife, Cha (Rochelle Pangilinan), is pregnant and already tired of her husband’s nefarious kind of job. Rex is having a torrid affair with a bar girl and thinks his Kuya Roman has lost his nerve.

At first, they don’t get our sympathy as they’re bad guys victimizing innocent people. But when rogue cops start exploiting them and using them to kill another cop, they strangely turn into tragic figures and we side with them. You quickly realize the movie will end badly for the doomed brothers and you somehow wish that fate would not be so harsh on them.

The film, written by Zig Marasigan and directed by King Palisoc, works mainly because of superior ensemble acting of the whole cast. Nico and JM both do marvelous tandem acting, investing their respective roles with the right mixture of pathos and intensity. The interaction between them, seen in scenes that range from light to very intense, is very believable. Rochelle is quite a revelation here in something she has not done on TV soaps before. She gives a truly heartfelt portrayal of the wife who is weary of it all. The scenes where Nico hums her a lullaby to calm her down are very moving.

Also giving great support are Elora Espano as JM’s randy girlfriend who turns out to be a police decoy, Allan Paule and Paulo O’Hara as the crooked cops who blackmail them to assassinate a rival cop (Simon Ibarra) and Joel Saracho as a kind car repair shop owner who helps the beleaguered brothers.
The film touches on police corruption but it is not really its intention to delve into such a more complicated topic, so it’s unfair to compare it with “On the Job” which really embraces a bigger scope. Ultimately, “Tandem” shows that crime does not pay, even for the cops who get the comeuppance they truly deserve, but it wisely focuses and confines itself primarily on the relationship between the two brothers and the women in their lives, which end in tragedy and the spilling of innocent blood.

Somehow, though, we wish the script was not so underwritten and could have mined more the very rich material to come up with an even more involving narrative. As it is, we don’t really know much about the brothers and how they were drawn into a life of crime, which is necessary for better character development. This will also make that special bond between them even more poignant and emotionally involving to the viewers as they unwillingly get more and more deeply entangled into a web of heinous crimes.

The film is less than 90 minutes, so what’s spending a few more moments for viewers to know more about where the brothers and their women are coming from. Here, in the end, the brothers even become rivals. Roman is Rez’ idol, but he wants to excel more than his Kuya. As the film fades out, we see that he revels in becoming the new Kuya of a younger guy to whom the torch is passed on. We’ve seen King Palisoc’s first attempt in the “Makina” episode of the trilogy “Bang Bang Alley” and we felt that he didn’t succeed in articulating the message of his story. He is now more successful in crafting a full length feature in “Tandem”, which is not an action movie as it’s being touted but actually a serious drama about family relationships among the dregs of our fractious and chaotic society.