At first glance, Kip Oebanda’s Bar Boys looks like a parade of good-looking men and nothing else. Happily, it proves to be much more.
The film begins with Carlo Aquino (as Erik), Enzo Pineda (as Christian), Kean Cipriano (as Joshua), and Rocco Nacino (as Torran) huddled together, in front of computers, at an internet café, playing an RPG. It is obvious from the start that the four leads have impeccable chemistry. They play off each other almost flawlessly—sometimes, it feels like they are improvising entire chunks of dialogue, or as if we are eavesdropping on their conversation. This chemistry and perfect comic timing pervade the film.
This is a buddy movie and one that is set in law school. It will make you miss your barkada in this fast-paced world where online engagement has become more prevalent than face-to-face interactions.
It is a credit to Direk Kip’s engaging script that it sustains this level of humor blending with drama, and a credit to the ensemble that they are able to fully realize it onscreen.
Among them, Carlo Aquino is the most compelling actor. His story line is also the most poignant: a lower middle class son whose security guard father struggles to put him through law school. He is vulnerable but is also capable, thankfully, even in his most dramatic scene, he goes for understated and not blubbering. Rener Concepcion, who plays his father, is so heartbreaking in his sincerity and frustration.
Rocco Nacino is more than just a pretty face in the role. It feels like he could be a campus heartthrob and a fratboy. To his credit, he does not play the fratboy role like a caricature nor does he overact. He can be slick, but not sickeningly so. Mailes Kanapi, who plays his mother, is a natural font of humor and even improvisation.
Kean Cipriano, despite his relatively shorter screen time, makes an impact and is memorable as the friend who is growing apart from his barkada. Even in scenes where he has minimal dialogue, his frustrations seep up to the surface. There isn’t much we know about him but he reveals more when his lines contradict the expression on his face.
Enzo Pineda seems to be more concerned with speaking his lines with the correct accent and diction than showing depth. He does well in the comedic scenes with the rest of the boys, but he struggles to be convincing as a loving son and devoted boyfriend.
Odette Khan, as a terror teacher, is a natural in the role. Yet, she still becomes a motherly confidante when necessary. She is impeccable at both—big and booming when she is frustrated; quiet and reassuring when she wants to be.
Kip Oebanda’s script is also very strong in its characterization. Each character is believable and his motivation is clear and consistent, established from the start. Until the end, because each character is well-rounded, his actions and journey make sense. Most of his supporting characters also feel like they could have been patterned after people we would meet on the street in real life.
Sebastian Castro, as a gay professor, shows he is more than a charming and good-looking actor. In one scene between his character and Aquino’s, there is a teasing sexual tension that is thrilling and amusing.
The cinematography is noteworthy, especially in the scenes involving Carlo and his family, and Rocco and his fraternity. Kudos to director of photography, Sasha Palomares, for giving more texture to these scenes using chiaroscuro.
The editing by Jo Domingo is uneven. In some parts, scenes are cut too abruptly, in others, they drag on for too long.
Overall, credit goes to the director and his actors for making Bar Boys engaging and not ostracizing majority of us who are not privy to that world.
The very last scene and shot--that recalls the beginning of the film--is a light and satisfying ending.
Bar Boys is part of the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino of the Film Development Council of the Philippines. It is being shown in theaters nationwide from August 16-22, 2017.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.