Thursday, September 08, 2011

Ex Press (2011, Jet Leyco)

The first few scenes feature things that may have come straight from the movie Bridge on the River Kwai. Scores of guys are working on the railroad tracks. But, is this a test run for the train? It took me a long time to learn that the train was stranded because of washed out tracks. A more experienced director would have told us immediately of this fact via throwaway dialogue or through brief chat by irritated passengers.

The inexperience of the director also shows in what seems to be a tendency to show off. But, since this is an undergraduate production thesis, I kind of understand the filmmaker’s eagerness to please. The arty shots practically scream technical expertise. Luscious color scenes are interspersed with some beautiful black-&-white shots. I grasped that these disjointed shots are some sort of memories by passengers and people living along the tracks. The problem with the mostly beautiful shots is not all memories are pleasant or clear.

While there may have been few cases of derailment, there are other unpleasant issues surrounding the Philippine National Railway’s operation of the Express route. The informal settlers living along the tracks treat the coaches as trash bins. They throw their garbage when the trains pass by. The plastic bags end up on top of the coaches. I’ve seen flat roofs being refurbished into triangular shape roofs in order to dislodge the plastic bags.

The squatters are also the main causes of vandalism and stoning incidents. This brings us to the major story arc of the film. A father, who works as a PNR security personnel in Bicol, mysteriously and suddenly resigns from his job. ‘Colonel’ Paliparan abruptly whisks off his family to Manila. His twin sons piece together the reason behind the resignation and relocation.

The elder Paliparan is tagged ‘Colonel’ for his wanton shootings of rowdy squatters. Every person he sees with stones on his/her hands is peppered with bullets. His gung-ho way of eliminating scumbags puts him in grave trouble.

There are bits and pieces of memories pertaining to a New People’s Army (NPA) member. He seems to be hunting down a person. Is this a reference to the NPA’s hatred and pursuit of ‘The Butcher’ aka Major General Jovito Palparan Jr.?

Ex Press started slowly but quickened its pace near the end. Leyco was so engrossed with his arty shots that he did not notice his film had long been derailed by this narcissism. The film ended up neither here nor there. It’s not heavenly great but it’s not hellishly poor. A crucial scene showing boys honing their stone throwing barely lift the film out of limbo. Movie is good enough for a one-way trip. 

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