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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.

May 10, 2022



‘ARISAKA’ is currently being streamed on Netflix, directed by Mikhail Red who did “Birdshot”, “Eerie” and “Dead Kids”. 

The basic story is quite familiar. It’s about a law enforcer who becomes the target of rogue cops and has to fight singlehandedly for survival. 

Usually, the hero is a man, like Liam Neeson or Sylvester Stallone, but this time, she is a woman, played by Maja Salvador who’s better known in drama.

A convoy is transporting corrupt vice mayor Rosales (Archie Adamos) who is about to witness against public officials involved in drug trafficking. 

They are going through the roads from Mariveles where the historic Bataan Death March took place. It’s estimated that 30,000 Filipino soldiers died in that infamous march. 

One of the cops guarding the vice mayor recalls how his grandfather lived through the death march by pretending to be dead. 

The only female cop, Mariano (Maja), is then asked if she thinks she could survive the same kind of experience. 

Then their vehicle is suddenly halted and they get a spray of bullets. The vice mayor is obviously a target for assassination to silence him for good. 

Before the vice mayor dies, he gives Maja his cellphone and tells her to protect it as it contains the evidence the authorities would need to prosecute the guilty parties.

Maja survives the attack and manages to get away and is quickly pursued by the gang of rogue cops led by the sadistic Mon Confiado. 

It becomes a deadly cat-and-mouse game as they relentlessly pursue her.  She is shot on the side of her tummy and collapses in the forest. 

An Aeta girl, Nawi (Sheila Mae Romualdo), helps revive her and brings her to the hut where her family lives. They nurture her and treat her wound with herbal medicine. 

The Aetas are a marginalized group of aborigines in the mountains and the film touches briefly on their own struggles. 

Nawi’s family has no inkling they have put their own lives in danger by helping her. Soon after Maja has left them with Nawi, Mon Confiado and his men arrive and massacre all of them. 

Giving more reason for Maja to take revenge on the bad guys.

The film’s climax is Maja’s final encounter with the guys who want to kill her. And she manages to pick them one by one with the help of an old rifle she found in a cave. 

This is the Arisaka of the title, a rifle used by Japanese soldiers during the war and it’s a miracle that it's still in good working condition. And Maja most certainly puts it into good use as she proves to be a deadshot.

The ultimate fight scene between Maja and Confiado, while they’re both wounded, is a thrilling one. 

Maja could have been subdued if not for the timely arrival of someone, an act that gives the revenge movie a fitting ending. Confiado surely gets what he most certainly deserves.

The film is beautifully photographed by Mycko David, capturing the pastoral beauty of the rustic surroundings and also Maja’s stoic face as she is subjected to various tribulations. 

The camera work in the final action sequence is also excellent, with the shots of heads and faces exploding gruesomely when hit by bullets, sure to satisfy viewers who love blood and violence. 

Maja does exceedingly well in the lead role of Mariano. It’s easy to root for her as screenwriter Anthony Santamaria (“Buy Bust”) makes her sympathetic from the start. 

We see her as a principled cop with a moral imperative in short flashback scenes. Her courage in her struggle to survive, even after being shot and stabbed, is definitely worth anyone’s admiration. 

We just wish that for more commercial purposes, the friendship between her and the Aeta girl has been developed further to give Maja more heartwarming scenes like the fearless heroines in action flicks with asskicking ladies in the lead, “Gunpowder Milkshake”, “Jolt” and “Kate”.