Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lucas Mercado's Trabajador (Men @ Work) : Flesh-Peddling Desperation

Guiller and Dexter (Kenjie Salvino and Luigi Romero, respectively) are new graduates subsisting in the squalor of the slums. Ambitious Guiller, a business administration grad, is desperate for a promotion at the company where he works. He craves for the luxury that insouciant Dexter is flaunting. But don’t they earn the same? Turns out Dexter enjoys the patronage of a rich lover Hector (Albert Rosales) who provides him with frills.
Meanwhile, graduating schoolmates Steve and Xander (CJ Manalo and Macky Monteclaro, respectively) find it hard to keep up with their scholastic activities. Steve is a sidewalk vendor and needs the dough to take his sick mother to a doctor. But what he earns doesn’t suffice. He turns to Xander whose making hay peddling his flesh to the random libidinous sidewalk strangers who require his services. Swamped with immediate concerns, Steve and Xander are unable to attend some of their classes, to the consternation of their swimming coach Sir Morris (Marky Ilustre) who happens to live in the same area. With graduation just around the corner, Steve and Xander are in dire straits.
When Guiller’s boss suddenly leaves overseas, the position is filled in by his boss’ son, an accommodating guy with whom Guiller gets chummy. “Gagawin ko’ng lahat ng inuutos n’yo, tulungan nyo lang ako ma promote (I’ll do whatever you ask, just help me get a promotion),” Guiller hints. That same night, his new boss invites him out for dinner. As he gains ground to his boss’ graces, he finds himself being willingly canoodled into his superior’s bed. Much later, his boss propositions him with a milk curdling deal. Another guy will join them for a threesome. He accedes not knowing that the third party is his friend Dexter (who himself is in the dark). Would the trio find their concupiscent encounter satisfying? Guess.

Lovers Dexter and Hector (Luigi Romero and Albert Rosales, respectively)

Make no mistake, most of the drudging narrative is fabricated to get these men in various states of undress. In fact, there would be half a dozen familiar scenes where any of the characters would arrive home, get inside their bedroom, undress until they’re in their skimpy white bikini briefs, then they caress their chests as their hands gradually slide down their crotches. Almost each one has this gratifyingly imaginative scene, even their teacher Sir Morris. CJ Manalo, Mercado’s protégé - he was in the director’s “Libido” (2009) and “Darang” (2010) - appears in a few full frontals as he soaps up his teeny weenies while he lathers his thighs on full frame display. Quite a fetching scene actually, as it underscores the sole essence of this flick.
Kenjie Salvino, possessing boy-next-door good looks, takes second lead. He appears more relaxed here than in his cinematic debut, Mercado’s “Bata Pa si Rafael”, and has pretty much discarded the potbelly he sported in Mercado’s “Rigodon”. This is a welcome development. Unfortunately, he isn’t tasked to do much except a couple of things: (a) walk around with long sleeved shirt and a tie, (b) get naked and look orgasmic while he’s being pleasured by his boss. He even voiced his observation: “Kay Hector, sex with love. Ako, pang alis libog lang.” Quite perceptive, if I may say so. The ménage a trios was an exercise in dullness, it would have been more entertaining swatting flies or clipping my toe nails. With stolid and obtuse scenes, where has Mercado’s imagination gone? Seduction is all but lost in sheer nudity. In Mercado’s teetering talent, erotica sits where his actors shed their clothes off. Nothing else. They get naked; that’s erotic. Very bright, right?

Guiller (Kenjie Salvino) and Hector (Albert Rosales) work and play together.

The production value leaves much to be desired. With clearly a non-existent budget, we find the extensive use of canned music. In the opening shot alone, the camera pans a row of shanties in a city slum on mid-day, while a music plays: David Mann and Bob Hilliard’s 1955 classic, “In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning”. I almost fell off my chair. FYI, Mr. Mercado, “wee hours of the morning” is sometime between midnight and sunrise. Not daytime when the sun’s up and blazing away. Mercado utilizes copyright music (try “Everytime You Go Away” while someone scrubs the callous off his feet) as though the music industry is his playshop.

Working students Steve (CJ Manalo) and Xander (Macky Monteclaro) perform in a live show to finance their immediate needs (Steve's sick mother; Xander's family in the province has urgent financial requirement).

The fielding of each scene is hammy and puttering, at best. You wanted first hand knowledge where Mercado (who both directed and wrote the script) exactly learned his film making skill, that way you could warn people off. Even the lines are stripped of sense:
Hector: Alam mo, may mga gabing natatakot ako.
Guiller: Saan, sir, sa dilim? Sa magnanakaw?
Hector: Bored lang ako.
Huh? What the heck was he saying? He’s scared because he’s bored? LOL. Brilliant deductive reasoning when you're just being gibberish. Isn’t “Logic” a part of any college curriculum? Enroll in one, Mr. Mercado, fast!

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