Manila's Finest is based on the life of retired Police Colonel Jimmy Tiu, played here by Jeric Raval. The film opens on him disarming a bomb planted on a bus, before joining an operation to track the international terrorist behind the plot. Then, in the middle of a firefight, the film flashes back to some other unspecified time in his tenure as an officer. The movie follows him as he leads his troops, moves up the ranks, roots out corruption, grapples with what it means to be a policeman, and stumbles on to a human trafficking operation that's abducting women and forcing them into sex work.
There isn't a whole lot holding this movie together. There isn't much of a plot at all, the movie basically moving from one vignette of Tiu's life to another. There isn't any sort of structure to the narrative, the film seemingly unable to string two scenes together. The only point that the film wants to make is that Jimmy Tiu was apparently the model policeman, incapable of doing wrong whether in the realm of the personal or the professional. It doesn't make for a very for a very compelling story, and it's all made worse by some of the worst production work in recent memory.
One expects a certain standard of work when viewing a film in the cinema. Even our lowest budget features nowadays tend to have a certain level of quality. Manila's Finest doesn't reach even the most basic levels of filmmaking prowess. More than half of the film's shots are out of focus. Inexplicably, the camera seems to be intent on keeping the backgrounds in focus while the characters are rendered as indistinct blurs. Many of the scenes also feature a distracting rolling shutter effect that really should have been dealt with.
One could certainly go on about how all the dialogue is terrible, or how the narrative lacks any sort of dramatic verve. But that might actually be giving the movie too much credit. There's no point to assessing it on an artistic level, when it fails so miserably on more basic matters. The way it stages scenes is downright baffling at times. A simple briefing scene is marred, for example, by a digitally inserted poster that keeps changing from cut to cut. In one shot, the poster actually changes as people pass in front of it.
This digital insertion of a poster really marks where the film goes wrong. It wouldn't have been hard at all to source a real poster, but they decided to insert it in post. The film's priorities are just plain mystifying. This film brings action star of yore Jeric Raval back to screens, but the actor doesn't bring a whole lot to the role. He doesn't seem to be too enthused about playing this part, really. Bangs Garcia puts a little more energy into her role, but she can't seem to keep her eyes open when shooting guns. This results in one of the film's worst moments, as a climactic action moment ends with a slow motion shot of her shooting with her eyes closed.
Manila’s Finest is hilariously bad. It’s just hard to understand how some of these choices were made. The movie’s priorities are really bizarre. Why would anyone feel the need to use a digital effect for a poster on the wall? Why are so many of these shots out of focus? When is any of this even taking place? The movie ignores the basic demands of filmmaking and instead functions completely on its own bizarre wavelength. All one can really do is laugh.
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