‘BuyBust’ Movie Review: A closer look at the Philippines’ drug war

    *Minor Spoilers Ahead*

    A departure from her usual roles Anne Curtis’ latest project, “BuyBust” offers people a closer inspection at the Philippines’ intensified war on drugs, past the oftentimes desensitized presentation by the government or even by the media. Using characters who find themselves personally involved in these sting operations, the Erik Matti-directed (“On The Job”) film allows viewers to experience what it’s like to be in the middle of the mess some of our fellow Filipinos live through every day.

    Anne Curtis as Nina Manigan in ‘BuyBust’/Viva Films
    Anne Curtis as Nina Manigan in ‘BuyBust’/Viva Films

    Curtis plays Nina Manigan,a member of a PDEA elite squad fighting tooth and nail to get out of the gang-controlled slum after their poorly executed operation to retrieve a drug dealer resulted in the death of her team. Teaming up with her surviving comrade, Rico Yatco, played by MMA fighter Brandon Vera, the two navigate the area to find an escape route. Unfortunately for them, both gang members and slum settlers start to close in on them, making it more difficult to get out of their predicament.

    Brandon Vera as Rico Yatco in ‘BuyBust’/Viva Films
    Brandon Vera as Rico Yatco in ‘BuyBust’/Viva Films

    In hindsight, there’s really nothing new about the narrative of “BuyBust.” A sting operation gone wrong is one of the most used tropes when it comes to crime thrillers. Despite this, there’s rarely any action movies, especially in the Philippines, that nail this kind of stories, and Matti nailed it in this one. Every element of the film was well-thought-of, from the logistics of action-packed chases scenes (filmed in narrow alleyways making it more difficult to pull off) to the execution of the brilliantly choreographed hand-to-hand combat, not to mention the surprising musical choices, everything worked perfectly together to heighten people’s experience watching the movie.

    Barely knowing anything about the characters, except for their roles in the team and how they do their jobs, audience members can find themselves deeply invested in Manigan and her team - a rare feat considering that most films nowadays spend a large chunk of the screen time convincing people to feel for the key players on screen. It’s a testament to how immersive “BuyBust” is, and how convincing the actors were in delivering nothing short of a great performance.

    While there are many things to laud “BuyBust” for, its biggest win was its ability to tell a well-balanced story. Sure the main star of the film is Manigan, but moviegoers will somehow get an understanding of the different positions of all groups involved in the Philippines’ oftentimes zero-tolerance policy on illegal drugs. Whether they’re a part of the PDEA or the drug cartel or just normal citizens caught in the middle of the crossfire between the former two, the film gave each of them a voice in the overall story establishing the fact that at the end of the day, each one of them are affected by what was going in their community.

    Brandon Vera as Rico Yatco in ‘BuyBust’/Viva Films
    AJ Muhlach as Gelo Elia and Anne Curtis as Nina Manigan in ‘BuyBust’/Viva Films

    “BuyBust” is already proving to be a hit overseas, with general positive reviews pouring in for the film. And while it more likely won’t appeal to mainstream moviegoers in international markets, it will definitely be a must-see for genre fans. For Filipino audience, however, the film is more than a means of entertainment. It’s a provoking think piece disguised as a big screen offering and everyone who wants to get an expanded perspective of how this administration’s war on drugs really is from the ground should take the time to watch this film. .

    Watch full trailer here.

    — ALD, The Summit Express

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