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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.

Jan 3, 2017

Kabisera Movie Review: Badly Written, Badly Directed, Nora Aunor Deserves A Better Movie

AT THE OUTSET, let us say that Nora Aunor once again excels in her superb portrayal of a grieving wife and mother seeking justice in “Kabisera”. But unfortunately, her fine performance is not enough to save the many shortcomings of this badly written and badly directed movie which has two directors no less and clearly demonstrates it’s not true that two heads are better than one.

Nora is Mercy de Dios (awa ng Diyos), a simple wife married to Tonying (Ricky Davao), a barangay captain. They have five kids: Jason Abalos. JC de Vera, Ronwaldo Martin, RJ San Agustin and Alex San Agustin. The last two are the children of the movie’s producer and co-director, Arturo San Agustin. The other director (also co-writer) is Real Florido, who did a much better job in the indie romance among senior citizens, “First Ko si Third”.

One night, armed men invade the home of Nora and kill Ricky. Then they hunt down JC de Vera. At first, we’re not told what exactly is the crime committed by Ricky and JC. But in a courtroom scene, a false witness (Karl Medina), pins down Ricky and JC as the guilty parties in a bank robbery gone bad where several people died.

The witness later admits to Nora that he was just tortured and forced to name names, something like what happened to Nicco Manalo in “The Janitor” where he implicated innocent people after being tortured by cops. You’d be surprised, though, that after the witness confessed his deed to Nora, she didn’t report it at all to the proper authorities, including her lawyer, Victor Neri, who is not at all properly attired when he attends the hearings in a proper courtroom.

The film obviously has good intentions in agitating us against extra judicial killings and the country’s corrupt justice system. But unfortunately, good intentions are not enough to make a good film. The story is about Nora’s husband and son becoming the victims of EJK, which makes it timely since EJK is the hot talk of the town these days. But the current EJK issue is connected mainly to the drug-related Operation Tokhang and the case in this movie is totally different, so it’s not really that socially relevant to our times.

Besides, the incidents concerning what really happened to Ricky and JC remain so nebulous. It would have been better had Ricky and JC were killed by stray bullets during a Tokhang operation. That would have made them, and also Nora, more sympathetic. As it is, we’re shown that there have been previous attempts on Ricky’s life and he’s shown handling so much money that seems illegal, but it’s not really made clear whether he is into nefarious activities and this is what endangered his life. Nora herself is in the dark as to what her husband is really up to so, when Ricky is brutally murdered, he doesn’t completely get our compassion.

The movie moves at a snail’s pace and painfully boring to watch because the narrative flow is not smooth and surely lacks focus. If they’d do this in a TV drama like “Maalaala Mo Kaya”, the whole story would be told more concisely and with much more impact in about an hour. Some scenes in the film are not connected with each other and you don’t really get to sympathize with Nora’s family. Even the supposedly normal banter between family members at their dinner table looks so put on.

The casting of Nora’s kids have no chemistry at all as a family and one of them, Ronwaldo Martin, is now you see him, now you don’t, obviously often failing to report for shooting. If there’s an award for the bad ensemble acting, this movie is the top contender. If this movie was chosen to help elevate the quality of the entries in the filmfest, the screening committee certainly made an epic extra judicial failure. The rejected “Mano Po 7: Chinoy” is definitely much better made than this as a family picture.

The other elements in the story are also hogwash, like Ces Quesada essaying in Lilia de Lima as the scarfed human rights commissioner who investigates the case and declares what happened to Ricky is a rubout. But she quickly dumps it, leaving Nora hanging in the dark. Sorry, but Ate Guy’s acting prowess is totally wasted in this movie, even if she’s given such supposedly powerful attention-getting scenes where she’s shaking and wailing while hugging her husband’s dead body. She certainly deserves a much better movie than this one.