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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.

Dec 17, 2021



‘BIG NIGHT’ is a dark comedy that definitely has strong political overtones as it tackles a very serious subject: Extra Judicial Killing. The opening scene shows a young man paying respects to a departed relative in the cemetery on All Saints Day. 

Then he is seen riding in tandem with a companion, goes to a depressed and thickly populated urban poor area, gets off the motorcycle and very casually shoots someone in the head.

The story then follows the story of Dharna (Christian Bables), an effeminate beautician with a Visayan accent. He’s living in with his lover (Nico Antonio), a macho dancer who’s aim in life is to win in their gay club’s big night contest that very night. 

He banks on Dharna to finish his costume but Dharna gets distracted when he learns that his real name, Panfilo Macaspac, is listed on the watchlist of a barangay containing the names of alleged drug addicts and pushers.  

Alarmed that he might be a victim of Operation Tokhang or summary killing, he then investigates as to who could have been the one who included his name in the list so he can clear his name before the list is submitted the next morning to the authorities.

The movie happens in just one night as we follow Dharna going to one barangay captain after another to find out who can help him erase his name from the list.

 Among the people he visits are their barangay captain (Eugene Domingo), a school principal (Soliman Cruz), a barangay leader who moonlights as an illegal midwife (Janice de Belen) and another barangay captain, a former action star Donato Rapido (John Arcilla.) 

He also gets to drop by and visit his dad (Ricky Davao), then goes to church to light a candle for his dead mother (Gina Alajar), who suddenly pops up to remonstrate with him, telling him she’s in hell, not in heaven, even when was a pious believer when she was alive. 

In a hospital scene, she sees an old woman who faints (Gina Pareno, in a wordless appearance) and he cleans her dirty slippers.

All the scenes are treated with much humor, most of which actually work and worth a guffaw. 

One of the funniest scenes involve John Arcilla and Nico Antonio enacting a shootout scene in one of the former’s movies. 

Both John and Nico are doing intentionally exaggerated, over the top acting, then Christian joins them as a hostage saying “tolong, tolong” in the most amusingly deadpan manner. It is truly a ribtickling moment on screen.

The movie is a vitriolic satire about petty local officials who are on the lowest rung of government but can still do a lot of corrupt acts. 

No character is perfect and some of their flaws are so pronounced in a way that would be relatable to most. John Arcilla turns out to be a drug lord and blatantly exploits Christian and Nico to be part of his nefarious activities. 

Christian’s character has a bittersweet arc. Of course, revealing what happens to him is a spoiler, so you have to see it for yourself. Christian delivers an endearing, well modulated performance as the harassed beautician. 

The film’s wordless final scene speaks volumes, showing him fully transformed, icily staring directly to the camera, now so different from the pimply Dharna at the start of the film. It is quite chilling.  

He delivers a consistently solid performance all throughout and can easily win as best actor in the Metro Filmfest.

Giving him superb ensemble support that looks so much like a labor of love are Eugene Domingo as the barangay captain turned gay bar owner, Janice de Belen as the midwife who gives Dharna some very valuable advice, 

Nico Antonio as Dharna’s bimbo boyfriend and John Arcilla as the former action star turned drug kingpin who seems to be having a blast delivering his wickedly wacky performance. 

For sure, Eugene and Janice will get best supporting actress nods while Nico and John, best supporting actor nominations. 

Needless to say, Jun Lana will surely be nominated for his thought-provoking screenplay and smart direction of “Big Night”. 

We pray lots of people will watch this enjoyable film during its Metro Filmfest screening in theaters starting on Christmas Day.