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MOVIE REVIEW: A Different Donny Pangilinan shines in ‘GG’ 

‘GG,’ with its gritty neon-laced visuals and its lack of any sort of romantic angle in its storytelling, or its confidence in telling this story without the use of its lead stars matinee appeal feels refreshing and different.

It’s a different Donny Pangilinan that I’m seeing in Prime Cruz’s ‘GG,’ a hodge-podge of a film that juggles a sports movie (with e-sports at the center of the narrative), a family drama, and a coming-of-age barkada film all rolled into one. I saw Pangilinan in ‘An Inconvenient Love’ back in 2022 and he was great when matched with Belle Mariano but didn’t seem entirely in the moment in his scenes without her. There were times when I felt he relied on cute than pushing forth with his character. But in ‘GG,’ Pangilinan seems to have shed off that idol-appeal, leans into the gritty, and presents a character that is difficult to like and makes him interesting enough for you to witness his transformation and character arc. It’s a committed performance and he keeps your interest despite a whole bunch of amazing supporting actors are threatening to steal the spotlight like Gold Aceron, Baron Geisler, and the-always-reliable Maricel Laxa.

In ‘GG’ (short for Good Game), Pangilinan plays Seth, a college student who is living with his grandmother and is heavily into playing games on his computer. He is part of a team called Tokwa’t Badboys and they play competitively in a multiplayer first-person shooter game called Requiem. When Seth’s grandmother passes away, Seth must now live with his very wealthy but estranged mother (Maricel Laxa) and her new family and transfer to a new, elite school.

But as the film opens, Seth isn’t a nice person. While he’s really very good in Requiem, he is positioned by the film as not being a team player. He’s good enough to make the Tokwa’t Badboys win games on his own skill alone and he’s not afraid to let his team know it. He’s withdrawn and guarded to his mother and her new family and keeps his distance and he has no friends or relationships outside of his gaming group. 

With mounting pressure from his mom’s family to do something with himself and to do well in school, and when a member of his gaming group leaves the team (due to Seth’s difficult personality), Seth must figure out his life before the arrival of a huge national Requiem competition that can make or break the team and solidify his choice to put the game above all else.

By all means, ‘GG’ is a sports movie. The action comes primarily from when the team is playing Requiem versus other opponents. There are sequences that director Prime Cruz gets right: the training montage, the bonding that creates a stronger team (especially this one where the biggest issue is their teamwork), and how the film raises the stakes and making the national competition a make-or-break event for these character’s lives.

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What Cruz doesn’t quite accomplish is to fully let the audience into the game itself. Requiem, according to press interviews the cast and crew did period to the film gave, is an actual first-person shooter game that they developed: the rules, the map, the game play, etc. They were actually playing the game for the movie. As a new game (and for non-gamers like me), I would have loved to have given a layout of how the game works, how the team operates, rather than to leave it all via dialogue from the members and the commentators when they get into competition. Any good sports movie explains the game and manages to incorporate a technique or skill into the story, to give the audience something to look forward to during the game. In ‘GG,’ the game Requiem has a special maneuver, named also after the game, that can turn the tide to a losing team. You know it’s going to be a plot point for the end but it’s never actually shown in the first two acts of the film so it doesn’t have the same impact as it would in a normal sports movie.

Also, the film’s first act is so focused on Seth that we don’t see the team’s dynamic established. The film starts and Seth is already acting arrogantly, and his team can’t stand him. Their history is suspect and it begs the question, how did this team form in the first place? The film also holds back the backstory of Seth and his mom, but this is executed better as Cruz manages to build on the family drama piece by piece so that he can throw in the dramatic stuff later on in a big reveal that actually kinda works.

Luckily, after the film’s premise is set, and as the film enters its second act, Seth learns the problem is him and he asks for forgiveness. It’s a scene that humanizes him and lays the groundwork for the barkada movie that is set to follow. All the questions I had during the first act is rendered pointless now and the film finds it heart. It’s a completely human moment that Pangilinan handles really well and is punctuated by Geisler, Aceron, and the rest of the cast that gets the film moving at the pace and rhythm it needed to be in.

While Pangilinan and Aceron do amazing jobs at making the sports movie part of the world enjoyable, it is Maricel Laxa who manages to take all her little moments, her quiet looks, her reactions to her son (both her son in the story and in real life, which I just discovered recently) as he struggles in school and in his new surroundings and gives the film its strongest heartfelt moments. ‘GG,’ with its gritty neon-laced visuals and its lack of any sort of romantic angle in its storytelling, or its confidence in telling this story without the use of its lead stars matinee appeal feels refreshing and different. With regards to how the film handles its sport-movie elements, I wish that the film made me more familiar with the game that I didn’t rely on the dialogue or commentary to understand what was happening during the third act competition, but I enjoyed the film and found a lot of pockets of truly human moments that made me attached to these characters and this world.

My Rating:


GG is now showing. Check screening times and buy tickets here.

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GG
Drama
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