After another threat of getting fired from work, Paul (Carlo Cruz, photo below), a call center agent, impulsively buys a ticket for New Zealand and quits his job much to the consternation of his boss. Jubilant from his departure, Paul hails a cab with a chatty driver (Jao Mapa). But before he gets home, he asks to pass by a convenience store for a pack of cigarette. Meanwhile, Jeric and Benjo, a couple of street thugs (Shielbert Manuel and Alex Vincent Medina) concoct a fast heist. As Paul steps into the store, he inadvertently plunges into the pillage. Inside the store, he joins a pregnant woman (Aleera Montalla) and the two store clerks.
While the robbers muster their haul, a cop leisurely saunters inside the store. Will the victims be able to get the latter’s attention?
Archie Dimaculangan and his co-directors Franne Cheska Ramos and Jono de Rivera come up with a solid work that baits you from the start as the film gradually introduces their characters in narrative vignettes, one strain more interesting than the other. The cinematography (Ice Idanan) is quite decent. But it somehow bogs down while maneuvering for an appropriate conclusion. The earlier story telling vigor eventually loses steam and unfortunately slides into an anti-climactic epilogue – or the lack of it. In fact, you somehow feel that it’s an uncompleted work; that it deserves a better ending. What was the taxi driver’s weight into the story if he were to be made aware of a robbery and he instead drives away without doing a thing about it? Is this a depiction of the moral vacuity that pervades this society? I doubt if this is such case. Not when the running time isn’t quite 60 minutes yet. Budget, probably?
Among its performers, it’s Carlo Cruz (playing call center agent Paul) who registers strongly. In fact, you root for him way before he gets inside the convenience store. Tarhata Rico, the nursing student who sidelines as a store clerk, could do well in the business too. Aleera Montalla plays the pregnant woman, but she could have fared better with a less meretricious character. If you recall, she played the creepy Amor in Richard Somes’ “Yanggaw”. It’s unfortunate that the film wasn’t able to enveigle more sinister antagonists - bumbling but willful enough to be believable - that the film sorely needed. In fact, the concluding scenes felt more lost than intended.
A taxi driver and a couple of thugs with nothing better to do.
A feisty call center agent (Cruz) and a store clerk (Rico).
“Balang Araw” (Bullet Day) is one of the three winning scripts that won half a million grant from the first Big Shot Festival, sponsored by SM Group of Cinemas. Besting 50 other hopefuls from colleges and universities all over the country, the film clearly makes the grade. Alongside mediocre independent commercial releases, it’s a testament that there’s hope for local cinema if we produce film students like these. But is it groundbreaking? Far from it. Surely there should be better ouvres to come out from this student film festival. But this one rightfully earns its stripes.
A pregnant woman (Aleera Montalla) and a couple of store clerks (Juan Miguel Severo and Tarhata Rico).
Alex Vincent Medina