Eye For Film >> Movies >> Amok (2011) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
The idea of running amok suggests someone racing out of control and indiscriminate actions. There is a literal aspect of that in Lawrence Farjado's gritty look at lives suddenly connected by random violence in downtown Manila but there is also a figurative sense of destinies being propelled forwards without much in the way of steerage.
Farjado drops us unceremoniously into the EDSA-Pasay Rotunda area of the Philippine city, where a spaghetti mess of roads and people overlap one another in an oppressive fashion, even before the humidity and traffic fug come into play. It's a place where the flick of fans, crescendo of horns and drip of sweat are omnipresent. The frenetic beat of life on the street is mirrored by a group of street kids rapping about the lack of personal space - "I don't want to get crushed" - as we see everyone from a half-blind beggar to a harried vendor (Patricia Ysmael) with a young child just trying to get by.
Everyone is on the take. A prostitute (Ivy Rivera) keeps a secret from her faded stunt guy client (Mark Gil), a father (Nonie Buencamino) and son (Xavi Hemady) talk about how easy it will be to forge an extended stay for him in the junior basketball league, a neighbourhood mafia type (Efron Reyes Jr) tries to convince an elderly woman (Ermie Concepcion) to do his dirty work and even the vendor's young daughter (Akira Sapla) is squirrelling away cash unbeknowst to her mum. Ironically, it will be an act of winning fair and square that ultimately sparks tragedy.
Farjado's style is immersive, capturing both the sense of chaos in the district but also finding time to linger on fine details, giving a vibrant sense of place. Despite handling a multitude of characters, John Paul Bedia's screenplay nimbly gives even the smallest of them a chance to breathe. Each vignette, no matter how brief, is surprisingly memorable. The acting, too, is top to bottom superb, from Gil's exquisite depiction of hangover horniness to Concepcion's finely worked moral dilemma and a carefully judged performance from Dido Dela Paz as a stall-holder who bites off more than he can chew.
Fajardo also makes smart use of his soundscape to indicate when characters are detaching themselves from the melee surrounding them. His choices don't quite pay off in the climactic scenes, when there is not quite enough narrative originality to fully justify some of his stylistic filigree, but by then we are so swept up in the heat and sweat of Manila that it's impossible not to care.Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2012