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On the Job(2013)
Filipino crime thriller inspired by a real-life scandal in which prison inmates are temporarily released from prison to work as contract killers on behalf of politicians and high ranking military officials.
For more about On the Job and the On the Job Blu-ray release, see On the Job Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on February 11, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Gerald Anderson, Piolo Pascual
» See full cast & crew
On the Job Blu-ray Review
Nice work if you can get it?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, February 11, 2014
How patient are you when you watch a film? Do you need to understand everything that's going on from the first frame, or are you willing to go with the flow until the pieces start to gel? What if that cohesion doesn't take place until almost the halfway mark? These are all questions that may be salient in determining whether or not On the Job will appeal to you. This gritty thriller spends virtually its first hour (of a slightly less than two hour running time) slowly introducing characters and giving tidbits about them while never making it very clear what's happening or how (or indeed if) anything is interrelated. The film begins with a viscerally exciting sequence where two guys are seen staking someone out in a crowded street festival. The handheld camera swoops and darts, never remaining on any given individual for more than a second or two, as if it were a furtive refugee looking over its shoulder at some unseen threat. When one of the two guys pretty much just marches up to a man and shoots him point blank, it's a terrifying moment, and one aptly sets the viewer on edge. Who are these guys, and what exactly are they up to? Anyone looking for quick answers to these questions had better strap in for the long haul, for On the Job takes its own sweet time in revealing its secrets. Once things do begin to fall into place, the film, while not entirely successful (for stylistic reasons, if for nothing else), is a fantastic roller coaster ride where two convicts work as professional assassins while they're incarcerated, at the same time that a police duo is trying to rein in some rampant killing of high profile gangland targets. On the Job plays a little like that "little engine who could", huffing and puffing its way up a steep, hour long hill, only to then explode into action on the downhill side of things.
It's usually wise to discount the "based on a true story" imprimatur that many films come with, and some may question just how much this supposed "ripped from the headlines" Filipino story really bears to actual historical events. But what On the Job posits is a huge scheme involving prisons around the island nation where criminals are let out of stir for a day or two in order to kill assigned targets. That's who the two guys we've met in the first scene turn out to be. There's an older man named Mario (Joel Torre), who goes by the nickname Tatang, which is often shortened to 'Tang. He's partnered with a younger kid named Daniel (Gerald Anderson). They are "managed" by a mysterious woman named Thelma (Vivian Velez), though Thelma is evidently just a middle manager, so to speak, taking orders on the phone from some unseen source.
The other side of this bifurcated story involves young policeman named Francis (Piolo Pascual) who is himself working with an older cop named Acosta (Joey Marquez). The man 'Tang and Daniel eliminated in the first scene was a drug lord named Tiu, and his death, especially in such a spectacular fashion, has caused a lot of concern and interest on the part of the authorities. Even with this much information (which is doled out very slowly over the course of the film's first hour), it's never really clear how these two disparate plot points are going to ultimately be intertwined.
At around the hour mark, though, things become much clearer. By that point, we've come to understand that the scheme to use the convicts involves people at the highest reaches of the Filipino government, something that may include Francis' father-in-law, who is running for office. Furthermore, it's also become clear that 'Tang is nearing the end of his "usefulness" to Thelma since, ironically, he's about to be paroled. Once he's on the outside, Thelma doesn't want to have anything to do with him, for it's the very fact that incarcerated convicts are completing these contract hits that makes the situation seemingly foolproof. Instead, Thelma is expecting 'Tang to "train" Daniel to take his place. Daniel, while very eager, is also a bit hesitant, as is evidenced in a couple of pretty terrifying scenes where he doesn't quite get the job done to 'Tang's exacting standards.
On the Job ultimately becomes a really compelling piece, though its depiction of a society corrupt almost beyond comprehension is an obvious downer. Even the jail the guys are housed in looks more like a bizarre kind of disheveled summer camp for errant adults. People are stashed away, almost on top of each other, behind barred hallways, and there's one scene where Daniel moves through the labyrinth of the prison that reveals just how seedy the environment really is. Things are that much better on the outside, though, as 'Tang's home life proves. This sidebar plot probably could have been jettisoned. It involves 'Tang's estranged wife and daughter, who don't seem to be fully aware that 'Tang is a convict. Even the supposed higher society types, like Francis' father-in-law, who may admittedly have more creature comforts are obviously beset by a moral turpitude that puts everything they've achieved into a much different context.
Director Erik Matti invests On the Job with a quasi-verité feeling, with almost nonstop use of handheld cameras that almost seem attached to the players in several key sequences. This approach gives the film an unusually visceral intensity, especially in key moments like a melée which breaks out in a hospital (and any Westerner looking at the grime in this facility is going to be making a mental note never to need medical care in the Philippines). The characters ultimately become more than types as the film goes on, though, again, there are some unnecessary sidebars that are explored (including Francis' relationship with his wife). On the Job may take a while to build up its head of steam, but once it's achieved full throttle, the ride is fast and furious, with very few people making it to the end intact or even alive.
On the Job Blu-ray, Video Quality
On the Job is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. As noted above in the main body of the review, On the Job consists of a lot of handheld camerawork, including the ever popular "jiggly cam" approach, and that in and of itself gives at least the perception of softness to many sequences, since the frame is never anchored on any given scene. What's perhaps even more problematic, though, is low contrast and Matti's tendency to shoot in very low light situations for much of the film. This was no doubt intentional, and adds immeasurably to the film's kind of spooky mood, but it makes it next to impossible to make out what's going on some of the time. Characters literally disappear into the shadows at key moments. All of this said, when the film does deign to exploit more brightly lit environments, colors are nicely suffused and the image offers very good to excellent fine detail. Several sequences are either lit or were color graded in post to a kind of sickly green-yellow tint, which tends to sap some of this fine detail out.
On the Job Blu-ray, Audio Quality
On the Job's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix has some fantastically immersive sequences, including the great street festival scene that ends in chaos when 'Tang assassinates his target. Later, there are a number of exciting moments, including the great showdown in the hospital, which is rife with rampant gunfire. Dialogue is very cleanly presented on this track. Perhaps surprisingly, there's not a glut of music providing extra impetus to some of the action scenes. Dynamic range is extremely wide on this track.
On the Job Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
On the Job Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
For those with the patience to let this film set its fairly opaque pieces on the board, On the Job ends up delivering a fantastically exciting experience. Performances are uniformly excellent, but the film is hampered somewhat by its frenetic camera style and Matti's tendency to shoot under conditions where things can't really be adequately seen. Recommended.
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On the Job Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: On the Job Blu-ray - February 11, 2014
Blu-ray.com and Well Go USA are offering four members a chance to win a copy of On the Job. This intense Filipino thriller is reportedly based on a real life incident where incarcerated convicts were let out of jail for a day or two to assassinate various ...
• On the Job Blu-ray - December 16, 2013
Texas-based distributors Well Go USA have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray director Erik Matti's crime thriller On the Job (2013), starring Piolo Pascual, Gerald Anderson, Joel Torre, Joey Marquez, Michael De Mesa, Leo Martinez, Angel Aquino, ...
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