J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Big Time: Filipino Indie Caper Chaos

A few days ago, the Japan Society emailed donors, updating them on their most recent round of Fukushima recovery grants. That shows why we can give to them with a high degree of trust and confidence.  It is also a timely reminder reconstruction is a long term process—one that is only just beginning in the Philippines. 

Before the typhoon, Filipino films were appearing with increasing frequency on the film festival circuit, including a special Filipino focus at this year’s NYAFF. However, Filipino releases do not seem to be comparatively represented in the American DVD market. Nonetheless, viewers can check out the Filipino indie filmmaking scene in all its ragged scrappiness with Mario Cornejo’s Big Time (trailer here), co-written, co-produced, and co-edited with his creative partner Monster Jimenez, which is indeed available on DVD from Pathfinder Entertainment.

Danny and Jonas are such small time crooks, they are frankly just unemployed losers.  Their latest job involved a jar of Choconuts.  Oh, but they have ambitious plans to change things: kidnapping.  Their target is Melody, a teen-aged beauty queen who harbors dreams of movie stardom.  There are just two things complicating the caper.  For one thing, Melody is secretly dating Wilson, the entitled son of underworld kingpin, Don Manolo.  Secondly, Danny and Jonas both happen to be idiots.

Naturally, Wilson comes along in time to foil the abduction, but the spoiled thug is not exactly thinking about justice. Resentful his father would not loan him the seed money to start up his own drug smuggling operation, Wilson uses the dim-witted duo to stage his own kidnapping, along with Melody. Of course, there is no question who is calling the shots and holding the gun. He promises everyone a cut, but we know better than that.

There is plenty of goofy wackiness in Big Time, but there is also a fair amount of blood and angst.  It pretty much covers the indie waterfront, peaking with an ending that is both ironic and sentimental. Separately, either could be annoying, but the combo is quite a feat.

As Danny and Jonas, Winston Elizalde and Nor Domingo certainly are not afraid of a little physical comedy.  They might not exactly light up the screen, but they have believable buddy rapport.  On the other hand, it is hard to fathom why anyone would date Jamie Wilson’s beefy namesake, or pay good money to ransom him.  At least Michael De Mesa takes care of hardnosed business as the fierce but taciturn Don Manolo.

Big Time admittedly treads some familiar Taratino-blazed trails, but it brings a distinctly Filipino sensibility to the tragic-comic caper genre, including tons of local celebrity references that will be lost on those who do not regular watch the Filipino version of Entertainment Tonight.  Regardless, its energy level is impressive.  Recommended for fans of indie gangster films, Big Time is now available on DVD. 

While there is not an equivalent to the Japan Society responding to the typhoon with the same degree of local expertise and stature, the Red Cross always a safe choice for first response efforts around the globe.  You can support their efforts in the Philippines here.

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