Erich, Rhian starrers yield mixed results
IT’S easy to understand why film buffs are psyched up about this week’s local releases: After all, while it’s true that Jade Castro’s “My Kontrabida Girl” and Richard Somes’ “Corazon: Ang Unang Aswang” are produced by two of the country’s leading movie-making machines (GMA Films and Star Cinema, respectively), their directors cut their teeth in edgy indies that dared to break mainstream cinema’s musty and dusty formulaic mold—and succeeded.
Somes has earned well-deserved plaudits for his revisionist take on the aswang in “Yanggaw,” so we had high hopes for “Corazon”—which puts another twist on the enduring Pinoy-vampire legend.
Set in the aftermath of the Japanese Occupation, the movie follows Daniel (Derek Ramsay) and Corazon (Erich Gonzales), a childless couple in a dirt-poor farming community who resort to a fertility ritual that leads to the young wife’s pregnancy.
When tragedy strikes on the day of her delivery, however, Corazon loses her grip on sanity and puts a curse on the children of the cruel townsfolk who avoid her like the plague because of her alleged comfort-woman past. In no time, the lifeless bodies of kids pile up—and the villagers pin the blame on two suspects: The avaricious hacendero (Mark Gil) and Corazon, who has gone missing!
Some fails to build on his film’s intriguing premise—and it doesn’t take long for viewers to realize there really isn’t much going for his meandering chiller other than its sparkling cinematography and good-looking leads, who are sometimes caught in moments of unintentional comedy—not a good sign for a movie that’s supposed to be scary or cautionary.
Ramsay looks lost (and is woefully miscast) as he tries to make sense of the vein-popping performances around him. For her part, Gonzales limns her character with understated forbearance—only she (and Mark Gil) turns in a credible portrayal, until she herself succumbs to the production’s implausibilities. When she finally snaps and loses her marbles, you’ll wonder: Is she beyond redemption—like this film?
‘My Kontrabida Girl’
The unconventional rom-com, “My Kontrabida Girl” isn’t without flaws and “duh” sequences, either (a truly “incredible” awards rites, etc.)—but, at least, you’ll have a hearty laugh playing along with its winking comedic moments. It sends up the komiks-inspired tearjerkers and predictable teen romances of the ’80s—with its tongue firmly in cheek.
Castro (“Endo,” “Zombadings”) effectively turns his offbeat humor into a storytelling tack that plays well to the strengths (and weaknesses) of Rhian Ramos—who comes into her own as the film’s kontrabida protagonist.
Rhian plays Isabel Reyes, a top soap-opera villainess who’s as nasty offscreen as she is on—until she becomes the recipient of a stranger’s random act of kindness, which turns her into a softie—a no-no in her profession as a screen toughie!
To get her insult-hurling, face-slapping mojo back—and upon the advice of Tinseltown’s most effective kontrabidas (Bella Flores, Cherie Gil, etc.)—she flies to her rustic hometown in Palawan to find Chris Bernal (Aljur Abrenica), the childhood friend who broke her heart. But, instead of ruining his life, she ends up saving him from his wicked aunt (the appropriately fierce Odette Khan)—and falling for him again!
Rhian doesn’t have Cherie Gil’s experience and flair for dramatic catastrophe just yet, but she certainly has the beauty and venomous aura. The hunky and telegenic Abrenica fits his promdi role to a T. But, as he was on “Machete,” he is stolid and barks his lines without much feeling or empathy—which is a huge problem if he’s being groomed as his home network’s Next Big Thing!
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