Fil-Am’s feature film wins raves, gets screenings in US

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“GRACELAND” team (from left) Ella Guevara, Ron Morales, Leon Miguel and Arnold Reyes during the 3rd Inquirer Indie Bravo! Tribute file photo

After screenings in Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York and Austin theaters, Filipino-American Ron Morales’ second film, “Graceland,” is showing in other US key cities.

It will be shown at the Facets Cinematheque in Chicago until today; from tomorrow to May 16, at Magic Lantern Theater in Spokane, Washington; and from May 17 to 23, at Grand Illusion in Seattle, Washington.

“Graceland” has earned glowing reviews from major publications like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Post and the movie web site Twitchfilm.com.

New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis summed up Morales’ film as “a tense and tough-minded family drama.”

It follows a driver (Arnold Reyes) out to save his daughter (Ella Guevara) from a kidnapper (Leon Miguel) out to settle old scores with the hapless driver’s boss, a corrupt politician (Menggie Cobarubbias).

Catsoulis noted how Morales “steers his story in unexpected directions.” While the film “embraces the breathless beats of a crime thriller,” she said, “it holds tight its concern for exploited children.”

LA Times’ Gary Goldstein hailed “Graceland” as “brimming with complexity and intriguing shades of gray.” He added: “Morales masterfully juggles the brisk thriller’s … puzzle pieces to create an unpredictable portrait of desperate times—and desperate measures. [It is] a gritty, well-shot picture that often plays like a tighter, more realistic version” of the Liam Neeson abduction actioner “Taken.”

New York Post’s Farran Smith Nehme agreed: “[A] nerve-shredding, Philippines-set thriller made with such skill that its low budget barely registers.” Nehme praised the “uniformly marvelous” actors. He found “Morales’ spin on the old ransom plot  fresher and more gripping than most big-budget Hollywood products.”

Inquirer honoree

Twitchfilm.com’s Andrew Mack concluded that Morales’ years of work as a grip in Hollywood had “nurtured him into an efficient filmmaker.”

He commended Morales’ storytelling. “He twists his screenplay around enough to keep even the most seasoned thriller aficionado second-guessing up to the end.”

Mack was sure that Morales could “pull off something bigger” in his next projects. “There is nothing that would make us second-guess his ability to handle a script that twists the thumbscrews a bit more.”

Morales is one of the honorees in last year’s Inquirer Indie Bravo! Tribute.

(bayanisandiegojr@gmail.com)

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