CINEMALAYA REVIEW: Eddie Garcia, Tony Labrusca show horrific torture in ML


Benedict Mique's ML fulfills the fantasy for Filipinos who are tired of Martial Law revisionists. What if we put these denialists under the same extreme torture that the martial law victims went through? Will they continue to trumpet the lies of the Marcoses?

Or will they see the light?

The film opens in a classroom in an upscale school. Two students, Carlo (Tony Labrusca) and Jace (Renz Villaraiz) are arguing with their history teacher, who is teaching them about the evils of martial law. The two students insist that the teacher is incorrect. Martial law was good because people had discipline, they say. Only communists were killed anyway. Isn’t that a good thing?

In his frustration, the teacher gives them a project. They have to interview a person who has lived through martial law so they can have first-hand information about it.

Carlo is enthusiastic about the project and he wants to go big. He decides to interview the colonel, an old soldier who lives in their posh village. 

Unfortunately, Carlo immediately realizes that this is a bad decision when he finds himself tied up and bloodied in the dark basement of the colonel’s mansion.

THE GOOD. The colonel has an intimidating presence that racks your nerves every time he is on screen. He strikes genuine fear each time he tortures Carlo, such that even the audience could feel pain emanating throughout the theater.

Praise must be given to Eddie Garcia, who plays the colonel. The veteran actor was present at the gala screening of this movie in Cinemalaya and we saw how he walked slowly and carefully. He’s already 89 and this age showed in his movements.

It was thus astounding to see him transform to a horrifying figure in ML. He’s a chameleon here. In one scene, he transformed from being strong and quick to frail and sluggish when his grandchildren arrived in his house.

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THE BAD. Eddie’s transformation was amazing to see on screen, but it was a head-scratcher, plot-wise. The story indicates that the colonel is torturing Carlo because he thinks martial law is still in effect. The movie’s reason for this lapse in memory is Alzheimer’s disease, but that’s not really an adequate explanation.

Eddie’s top-notch performance also brings to light how his co-actors are not up to par to his talents. Tony is adequate, and does not show much range. Renz and Liane Valentino, who plays Tony’s girlfriend, are one-note.

THE WORTHY. There should also be a discussion on whether ML effectively educates the denialists about the true horrors of Martial Law.

Was it enough for the movie to just show the horrific torture—water cure, Russian roulette, cigar burning and even rape by a foreign object—that the Martial Law victims went through, without discussing why torture is bad? The colonel was even able to give his reasons for his actions, while Carlo was not able to express himself, even up to the final cut.

Ultimately, ML hinted to have more weight by attaching itself to historical or current events, but the effort doesn’t quite land. That’s not a bad thing.

ML is still a solid movie that should be a hit with fans of horror movies. Watch it when you’re looking for something that will make your heart race.


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.


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