Silliness is Preferable in ‘Ang Bagong Dugo’

At best, the movie is a laughable attempt to recreate some of the goofy magic of 90s local action cinema. It's often much worse than that, however.

Ang Bagong Dugo kicks off with Anong (Joem Bascon) attempting an assassination in broad daylight. After a brief chase, he's arrested and sent off to prison. There, he tangles with the goons of the man he tried to kill, and is taken under the wing of Herman (Mark Gil), one of the prison's most powerful residents. But unbeknownst to all the inmates, Anong has a secret agenda. His imprisonment is all part of an elaborate plot to get revenge against the man who murdered his father years ago.

It's difficult to tell if Ang Bagong Dugo wants the audience to take it seriously. It certainly keeps a straight face through much of what happens within. And there are moments where the film seems utterly convinced of its own pathos. But in the end, it's all just really, really dumb. At best, the movie is a laughable attempt to recreate some of the goofy magic of 90s local action cinema. It's often much worse than that, however.

Much of the problem with this movie is due to its insistence on twist-based storytelling. It's always holding back some vital piece of information, seemingly convinced that a big reveal later on will blow people's minds. In practice, this is mostly silly and frustrating. It means that the film holds off on letting us know what the hero is all about. The film cheats itself out of any narrative momentum, the first half meandering through a lot of meaningless incident.

By the time the twists are actually deployed, it's difficult to care. The need for obfuscation makes it feel like the hero isn't particularly concerned with getting anything done. And the answers are pretty underwhelming. They're either telegraphed too early or utterly senseless. And despite a pretty strong cast featuring the likes of Mark Gil, Dick Israel and Roi Vinzon, the movie doesn't get a lot out of its performances. The only real joy to be mined from this picture is derived from moments that drop the facade of seriousness and embrace the silliness.

In one particularly memorable sequence, Anong gets into a badly choreographed martial arts melee with another inmate. When the guards get close, one of the inmates slams a button on a nearby videoke machine, and everyone pretends that they were just dancing. It's incredibly stupid, but these moments of pure delirium are vastly preferable to the self-serious nonsense that dominates much of this movie. They are equally incoherent, but at least the sillier stuff is at least a bit entertaining.

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Ang Bagong Dugo is at times hilarious, but it's hard to tell if any of that was intended. The movie keeps shifting wildly in tone, playing a tragedy in one moment and having a dance party in another. I'll give it this, though: it's never really boring. It can be stupid, and frustrating, or downright baffling, but it is fascinating in its own right. Because there is clearly some genuine belief behind all this craziness. It isn't good by a long shot, but it's interesting all the same.

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