ForFilipino mainstream-content folks, do not ignore the indie film Graceland. Winner at the recently concluded Tribeca Film Festival in New York, the crime thriller rivals your regular Hollywood crime fare, delivering a strong, solid narrative that will keep you riveted to the screen.
Marlon Villar (Arnold Reyes), a religious, mild-mannered, loving father, is the loyal chauffeur to corrupt Congressman Chango (Menggie Cobarrubias). Life is difficult for the poor driver, and yet he never forgets to keep his daily prayers and put his trust to the Lord. But one unfortunate day, Marlon experiences what could be his greatest trial: As he was driving home Changho's daughter, with his own daughter at the backseat, the car was ambushed by the police, Marlon is knocked out, and the girls are suddenly gone. And thus Marlon is thrown into a horrifying and grim predicament that pushes him to the brink of insanity.
Graceland, written and directed by Filipino Ron Morales--who has head key grip stints in films such as New York, I Love You, Michael Clayton, and Spider-Man 3--is a dark and weighty film that explores poverty, kidnapping, prostitution, and political corruption in an intricately woven plot that will tense, stress, and keep a certain level of heaviness in your chest.
Arnold Reyes is a fitting protagonist, delivering an impressive, multi-layered performance to his impoverished and morally challenged character, emotionally hooking you to his helplessness, fear, and shock; sucking you along in his horrific dilemma. This is a film where you will see local actors deliver natural, satisfying performances, both subtle and intense, that you forget that you are watching actors, as you are swept away by the narrative, fearful, sympathetic, and sad.
Graceland provides an unpredictable, thrilling, and thought-provoking story, taking you right into the heart of the heavy, shocking, ills of our Third World country-- the same problems that exist around the world. It's a movie that delves into the dark, human psyche, exploring man's weaknesses, and exposing us to sad realities that we'd rather believe do not exist. Ron Morales' Graceland indeed succeeded in presenting us a moral and sociological study through a highly entertaining plot that you'd be thinking and talking about long after you've left the cinema.