Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lawrence Fajardo's Posas - Social Commentary as First Rate Entertainment

It’s just another day in the life of Jestoni Biag (Nico Antonio), a petty cellphone thief operating in the backstreets of Quiapo and the contiguous areas. Jes is a devoted brother to a mother and a younger brother who are entirely dependent on his daily earning, dismissive of Jes’ means of finding his keep. Her mother keeps reminding him, “Magpapakabait ka, anak” as though it would suffice to keep Jes out of trouble. One day, he finds Grace Rosuello (Bangs Garcia) waving away her new iPhone. He easily snatches the gadget away from Grace, unaware that the call center agent has actually seen his face and could easily identify him from a line-up. Jes then peddles his loot to Musngi who buys them at a fraction of their original price.

Meanwhile, Grace is desperate to recover her phone for its “sentimental value”. Truth is, she has sex videos with a married man conveniently hidden in her phone. She has to claim the phone before her dilemma gets out of proportion – and no bureaucratic red tape is too tedious for the frantic girl. She seeks the help of SPO1 Santiago (Jake Macapagal) and PO1 Damian (Nor Domingo) who are receptive for the wrong reasons: “Ang laki ng dyoga.” Like a bizarre twist of fate, Grace spots Jes. A mad pursuit ensues until they finally collar the suspect who’s reiterative of his innocence. Jes is booked at the police station (Sta. Cruz Central Market station) where he meets Police Inspector Domingo (Art Acuna). They take Jes to a holding place where he is subjected to torture until all that’s left is his resolve to come out of the situation alive. Jes takes Inspector Domingo and his cohorts to Musngi. They recover Grace’s phone back. Jes is eventually released, but becomes part of a bigger web of criminal enterprise. From here on, he has to hand a percentage of his loot to Inspector Domingo as payback for the P100,000 bail that the precinct loses upon Jes' release. Was he truly scot-free? As a valedictory deed, there’s one more mission he had to accomplish; one that would pull him deeper into the iniquitous mire.

Director Lawrence Fajardo once again tackles a gritty tale that covers the repulsive bureaucracy that a willing complainant has to go through just to report a crime and pursue its rightful claim in the judicial system. It also spotlights the incongruous exercise of law enforcers where regulations are concerned to protect the right of any accused individual “until proven guilty”. This chasm of malfeasance is deftly depicted by Zig Dulay’s interminably succulent script. In fact the audience is roped into this long drawn out situation where, sometime in the narrative, you feel the need to come up for air. Rich with an atmosphere of fraudulency and corruption, the audience is given insight into a bureaucratic stigma that haunts the different arms of the government. It just leaves you cold. In fact, the closing scene shows a sign that underlines the raison d’etre of these institutions: “to prevent crime” and “to enforce the law”. But what have they become?

Posas” (Shackled) is buoyed by a consistently competent ensemble. The actors have somehow embraced realism giving “Posas” a sense of urgency. In fact, it inspires neurosis. Who can you trust? How do you distinguish the good from the bad guys? These questions become exigent when viewing this film.

Nico Antonio has consistent characterization, sufficient enough to inspire empathy. He has a distracting affectation (the way he stares), but he’s a newbie. He will surely finetune his thespic skills with time. Bangs Garcia, on the other hand, has evolved into a compelling actress. When she’s on screen, you feel the energy emanating from her. To think I used to consider her a mediocre presence. How things have changed in two to three years. Susan Africa makes the most of her screen time. When she tries to convince the officers that “Mabait ang anak ko,” she was more than believable, only to change tunes when she finally saw Jes behind bars, “Walang hiya ka! Sinabi ko sa yong mag ingat ka!” She knew all along what kept her son busy.  

But the revelation in the movie is theater actor Art Acuna playing Inspector Domingo. With his lean frame, calm delivery and mild demeanor, he succeeds to impart a level of malignity and truculence without even raising his voice. He scared the bejesus out of me. He likewise imparts charm in savagery, which is antipodean at best.

Amok” is still my favourite Lawrence Fajardo film, but “Posas” isn’t too far behind. It’s a good thing that a week after Cinemalaya closed the festival, “Posas” found its way into commercial theatres. In fact, people were able to see “Posas” for a mere P109 at most SM Cinemas. How’s that for inexpensive, albeit world-class film making? This is social commentary and applicatory entertainment. What more do you want in a film?

Nico Antonio as Jestoni Biag, the cellphone thief.

Bangs Garcia as Grace, the call center agent who loses her cellphone in Quiapo.

4 comments: said...

Agree with your review. This is my fave film in the Director's Showcase category.

Cathy Pena said...


I'm glad it won what it won at the Cinemalaya. My favorite though is "Bwakaw", but "Posas" follows closely. I like Lawrence Fajardo - from "Kultado" (di ba?), "X-deal", "Amok" to "Posas", this guy is consistent. I like that he's entertaining, thus he doesn't alienate the Pinoy audience. :)

Armando dela Cruz said...

I wasn't able to watch this, mainly due to schedule issues. Now I'm regretful. I'd prolly get it on video if it ever comes out! :)

Cathy Pena said...

My dear dear Armand, how I wish I own a copy of "Amok" I'd gladly lend it to you, but even that doesn't have a commercial DVD release. I just hope Atty. Joji (the producer) can get it out on DVDs soon.