The Filipino Scribe was able to watch “Hustisya” during its premiere night yesterday at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Starring Nora Aunor, “Hustisya” is one of the entries in this year’s edition of the Cinemalaya Film Festival.
And judging from the warm reception that the film received from those who watched it Saturday night, the Joel Lamangan-directed movie is bound to have a successful theater run in the coming weeks.
Apart from superstar Nora Aunor, also included in the film are Rocco Nacino, Rosanna Roces, Chynna Ortaleza, Romnick Sarmenta, Sunshine Dizon, Gardo Verzosa, Tony Mabesa, and others.
WARNING: The coming part contain spoilers:
The movie begins with Viring (Aunor) traveling on a van with her boss Vivian (Roces) and her boyfriend (played by Gardo Verzosa). They were on their way to a safehouse to fetch dozens of women plus a gay man meant for delivery to the group’s clientele based in Olongapo and Bulacan.
Within the first 15 minutes of the film, it is revealed that Vivian and her cohorts are engaged in human trafficking. Viring is her personal assistant, responsible for delivering payoffs to politicians and even a member of the clergy (Mabesa).
Biring is portrayed as both foulmouthed and religious, and that’s just the most superficial among her personal contradictions. Imagine this two scenes:
1) While Biring was eating at a carinderia, a man was stabbed to death by a thief right behind her. After turning her head for a few moments, she just went on eating.
2) She said “Kaawaan ka ng Diyos” to a woman who she helped become victimized by illegal recruiters.
The movie is replete with occasional comedic lines from Aunor (she didn’t have any hard drama scene in the movie) as well as images from the daily life in the streets of Manila and the area around Sto. Domingo Church.
Biring’s life turned upside down when Vivian framed her for the murder of her cheating lover. Vivian afterwards pretended to be concerned about her predicament, even tapping a lawyer for her (played by Nacino).
It is Nacino’s character who changed Biring’s character. “Tingnan mo ang palaka at lamok. Mahuhuli lang ng palaka ang lamok kung magiging kakulay nito ang paligid niya. May panloloko. That’s how nature works!” he told his client at one point.
And in a sign of how much Biring character changed later in the movie, she was able to repeat that quote almost verbatim to her sidekick (played by Ortaleza).
One sidelight in the movie is Biring’s relationship with a journalist (played by Sarmenta). Initially, she wanted to give him a tell-all exclusive about the illegal activities she’s engaged in.
Later on, with the prodding of Nacino and another big man, Biring changed her mind. Suddenly, she wants him to return to her a notebook where evidences are recorded.
And when he refused, Biring took out her gun and engaged the reporter in a violent struggle which resulted in the latter getting killed. Biring’s remorse over his death is only temporary, though.
Now for our commentaries:
1. Despite being two hours long, the movie didn’t let its viewers feel as if the story is being dragged on unnecessarily.
2. Nora Aunor’s performance in this movie reminds me of Gina Pareno in “Kubrador.” You know, her banat lines and sexually-themed quips are so appealing to the audiences.
3. The scenes where activists appear out of nowhere feel misplaced (e.g. that sequence in front of Manila Post Office).
4. I got confused in that scene where Biring was declared not guilty of the murder and when Vivian was killed. All along, I thought the characters were merely imagining the events in their minds similar to what happened in Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn Part II. Yun pala, nangyari na …
5. Some story lines I wish were developed further:
*How did Biring develop a close relationship with that journalist?
*What happened to Biring’s relatives after she began residing in that condominium unit?
6. It seems that Biring’s character was inspired by Janet Napoles. They share two strong similarities:
*Both came from humble beginnings and with little educational background
*Both provide protection money to politicians