Simply put, the Gerald Anderson-starrer AWOL is a basic action movie.
Directed by Enzo Williams, it hits all the right marks of a good action movie. There's thrilling fight scenes, intense confrontations and a plenty of gun battles and explosions that will make your heart race.
What's disappointing is that it does not go beyond the trappings of an action movie.
It could have been much more by raising the discourse on justice and vigilantism, but it chose to gloss over these issues in exchange for more violence on celluloid.
AWOL tells the story of Lt. Abel Ibarra, a sniper who goes berserk after a criminal kingpin annihillates his whole troop and targets his family. So Abel goes AWOL to find the suspects and take them out.
Gerald Anderson plays Abel, and excels as an action hero. He already looks the part because he's in amazing shape, and he is competent with the fight scenes. He gives enough intensity to keep the action believable.
The problem is that Gerald's characterization does not go beyond "action hero." There's no more complexity other than being a mean killing machine. He doesn't stop to think about the consequences of his actions, and justifies his kill count as a way to apply justice. But is this extra-judicial approach valid? Does it affect his conscience?
It's not totally alien for the movie to stop for a moment to take the story deeper. There are narrative threads that allude to these complexities. Abel's general endorses his mission to go beyond the law to take his revenge. Then several news clips are played during the movie to bring these issues to light.
There's also a character that served as a stand-in for this dilemma. This was a police investigator played by Richard Quan, who vowed to try to stop Lt. Abel's crimes. However, this did not come to fruition because the two weren't able to meet, even in the after-credits scene.
This omission is particularly glaring because AWOL is one of the entries in this year's Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino.
Ultimately, AWOL is a thrilling action movie, and Gerald Anderson excels as an action hero, but it could have delivered a stronger message about the culture of impunity pervading society today.
AWOL is part of Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino of the Film Development Council of the Philippines. It is being shown 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.