Watch Me Kill, starring Jean Garcia, is pegged as a psychological thriller.
It earned three awards (Best Director for Tyrone Acierto, Best Cinematography and Best Editing) in the ongoing 2019 Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino film festival.
It tells the story of Luciana (Jean Garcia), a ruthless assassin who has no problem killing not only her intended targets but also anyone else who has the misfortune of witnessing her work. Clients love her because she has a take-no-prisoners attitude and takes care of all loose ends.
An underworld boss named Franco (Jay Manalo) calls on her to kill a hermit (Rodolfo Muyuela) who by some stroke of good fortune found a diamond while panning for gold in a river.
Luciana found a young girl (Junyka Santarin) inside the hermit's vehicle and shoots her in the leg. But instead of making sure she’s dead, Luciana surprisingly takes her as her prisoner.
As the assassin's back story slowly unfold through flashbacks, audiences begin to understand why her maternal instincts kicked in as she slowly bonds with the girl named Lourdes who she renames as Aurora. And just when this mysterious girl begins to give the assassin a sense of purpose, client Franco discovers that the diamond given to him by Luciana is actually fake.
A cat and mouse game then ensues between the hunter and the hunted with the roles eventually shifting by the film’s final act.
Tyrone Acierto--whose last film was the acclaimed zombie thriller, The Grave Bandits, way back in 2013--takes his sweet time telling his story, allowing Luciana’s character to develop organically.
Although it wasn’t easy to imagine Jean Garcia portraying a cold and calculating killer, the seasoned actress managed to pull it off with aplomb. Staying mostly calm and collected for most of the film, her occasional outbursts are reserved mostly during her interaction with her adopted hostage.
In contrast, co-star Junyka Santarin deftly transforms from a frightened child to someone who starts to feel safe and comfortable in the company of a dangerous assassin.
As Franco, Jay Manalo matches Jean’s demeanor as he communicates with her in a relaxed, assured manner which all the more makes him a menacing figure.
Rodolfo Muyuela also shines as the impoverished old man who turned out to be a collector of diamonds and other precious stones.
Despite little screen time, noteworthy performances were also delivered by comebacking actress Althea Vega as a newbie assassin who idolizes Luciana and Bodjie Pascua as a corrupt cop who finds himself staring at the barrel of his assassin’s gun.
Shot with a traditional 16mm film camera, the film’s grainy, retro look gives it a ragged edge with an early Mad Max feel to it as further punctuated by the equally topnotch production design. The influence of classic filmmakers like Sam Peckinpah and, to a certain extent, Quentin Tarantino is also quite evident.
While more of a psychological thriller, it would have been great to see more action from Jean in the form of, well, maybe a little more resistance from Luciana’s targets.
The film is not big on dialogue so audiences are also left on their own to piece the puzzle together. While Watch Me Kill is fairly straightforward and not at all difficult to figure out, one plot point that is left to speculation is what ever happened to that diamond. Does it have something to do that duffel bag full of cash that Luciana was carrying towards the film’s final act? Audiences can only speculate.
But these are minor quibbles that are not really dealbreakers for the film. For the most part, Acierto made the right creative decisions on how to effectively present his narrative.
Well-crafted with obvious Hollywood sensibilities, Watch Me Kill is one of the entries in this year’s PPP festival which runs until September 19 in cinemas nationwide.
Some audiences may not have the patience for this slow burn’s deliberate pacing but Acierto’s steady direction, Jean Garcia’s performance and the rewarding payoff in the end makes the time invested worthwhile.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial team.