The awarding of Cannes’ best director prize to Mendoza surprised most critics at the festival. The first part is vibrant and engaging: we follow young police cadet Peping (Martin) and his girlfriend Cecille (Cabral) as they travel through Manila to attend their wedding with a handful of friends and family. Mendoza and cameraman Flores are adept at sweeping up the chaotic energy of the modern city. The next day, a friend of Peping persuades him, for cash, to join a group of renegade policemen as they kidnap a prostitute, Madonna (Lopez), who owes money to a police chief, and take her to a remote basement, where she’s raped and killed. There’s little subtlety to the dark and grim presentation of this crucial turning point in a young man’s life – we see everything in brutal, horrific close-up. And while Mendoza is to be applauded for not shying away from reality, one must also question the difference, if any, between the cops’ slaughter of a prostitute for their own ends and the director’s matter of fact, awkward deployment of her fate to illustrate a young’s man rite of passage into a violent, corrupt adult life. The word exploitation comes to mind.