Saturday, November 03, 2012

Reel Asian Review: Graceland

Marlon Villar (Arnold Reyes) is a driver for a powerful congressman, Manuel Chango (Menggie Cobarrubias), who finds his life turned upside down when his daughter Elvie (Ella Guevara) is kidnapped. Threatened with losing his daughter for good, Marlon is forced to follow the instructions given by one of the mysterious kidnappers, Visel (Leon Miguel), over the phone. Marlon is soon entrenched in an increasingly seedy web of deceit. As Marlon scrambles to get his daughter back, he must also deal with Manuel, whose daughter is also missing. To make matters worse, Marlon also has to contend with the local cop working on the case, Detective Ramos (Dido de la Paz), who seems more interested in investigating Marlon than he is in finding Elvie.

Graceland is a film that will catch many off guard. It is a film that wallows in the misery of the darker side of life while still managing to be an “edge of your seat” thriller. It is tough to talk about Graceland without ruining everything that makes Ron Morales’ sophomore film so riveting. Morales constructs a tightly woven film that crackles at an extremely quick pace. The film may appear to be a straightforward tale on the surface, but it is surprisingly layered. The story is filled with unexpected turns and shocking revelations that take the characters further down the rabbit hole.

Graceland is a commentary on morality and corruption, though the lines become increasingly blurred as the film progresses. Corruption is used both as the cause and, in a dark way, cure for the problems that the characters encounter. One criminal act is used to justify another. This is most evident when events lead Marlon to an illegal brothel where the workers are clearly not of legal age. The scene in the brothel is one of the most disturbing moments in the film simply because of Morales unflinching camera. He manages to make both his main character and the audience feel like they are dirty voyeurs.

By placing the audience in Marlon’s shoes, Morales is able to escalate the tension to great heights. Though Morales’ direction is sound, it is the phenomenal performance by Arnold Reyes that is the glue that keeps the film together. Reyes does a masterful job conveying Marlon as a man who is pushed to the brink. He is the type of person that people walk all over, but still must find the strength to achieve the objectives that have been set out. While it may be cliché to say that the film relies solely on the lead actor’s performance, it is fact in this case. Graceland would not have the same shocking impact had a less talented actor been given the role.

Dark, disturbing and thrilling all at the same time, Graceland is a film that takes you on one fantastic ride. Filled with fine performances and unexpected turns, the film will lead to much conversation afterwards. Graceland is not a film that you will forget anytime soon.

Graceland is screening on Thursday November 8, 2012 at 9:55 pm at Innis Town Hall

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