Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Brilliante Mendoza's achievement in Slingshot is skilfully combining staged action with others who have no awareness that they're in a movie. The pace is relentless and often catches the viewer completely unawares - the opening sequence of a night-time police raid, using flashlights to punctuate the gloom to the opening credits is inventive and strongly blocked, and magnificently pieced together using multiple hand-held Digibeta cameras and editorial tricks. It goes on too long, as though Mendoza is in love with all of it and unwilling to cut anything. And he gets some fantastic flubs, with an officer fumbling his rifle magazine, but the camera and actors carry on and take it as a happy accident.

The technical expertise and fast turnaround in this movie is stunning. They give us a real flavour of the life in the Manila slums, full of filthy open sewers, and of the social order of the inhabitants: from pickpocketing gangs to the criminal top dogs, police torturers and openly corrupt politicians giving promises of "Hope for the Masses". Furthermore, their strong Roman Catholic faith is mocked, with the city leaders assuring the public that "Our campaigning efforts amount to nothing without God.", all the while giving cash handouts in exchange for votes. Some faith!

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The attention to character detail is as superb as in the recent California Dreamin', with surprising little turns in the script, like a pickpocket pinching a necklace from a young woman's head, sprinting away as fast as his legs can take him, only to return it and insult her five minutes later for wearing fakes. The stunning beauty queen, Miss Beautiful-For-All-Seasons, loses her set of dentures down the sink and searches the muddy filth-holes outside in a desperate effort to get them back.

There are several story threads, all seriously light and uneventful: from one character losing his pedicab through failing to get his rent, to gangs of thieves sneakily and stealthily holding up their mark in audacious broad daylight, and families freebasing and failing to look after their children. A moment reminiscent of Trainspotting hammers this home. The characters often jump from one story to another, and all the while through the slim 86 minute runtime, there's always something going on, with fresh stories starting and ending often without warning.

It's often quite confusing. Robert Altman got around this problem by using bankable names in his ensemble movies, and giving his new cast members interesting story things to do. Sadly, Mendoza does neither. So, it's an audacious technical experiment giving us a flavour of the lowly criminal life, but with nothing to say, unlike Fernando Meirelles' great City Of God. A shame, really.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2008
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Close-up and personal view of the slums using hidden cameras and brilliant editing.

Director: Brillante Mendoza

Writer: Ralston Jover

Starring: Coco Martin, Nathan Lopez, Kristoffer King, Jiro Manio, Jacklyn Jose, Jean Andrews, Julio Diaz, Harold Montano, Angela Ruiz

Year: 2007

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: Philippines

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If you like this, try:

City Of God