The signs are ominous when country bumpkin Oscar moves his wife and young family from the rural Philippines to Manila, where the naive newcomers seem destined to be chewed up and spat out by one of the toughest cities on earth. Against the odds, Oscar lands a job driving a security van, but when his new work partner proves a little too keen to help him build a better life there may be trouble ahead.
It’s enterprising of British writer-director Sean Ellis (‘Cashback’) to have shot this Tagalog-language drama on the bustling streets of the Filipino capital. Its sheer vividness is its strongest suit, from the spot-on casting and emotionally authentic performances, to the telling portrayal of what it’s like to scrape by on the wrong end of the luxury gap in such a dog-eat-dog place.
Unfortunately, the movie has little new to say, beyond repeating the familiar notion that poor people do desperate things, and Ellis’s twisty plotting gets too clever-clever for its own good. But it’s pacy, engrossing, and Jake Macapagal’s turn as the plucky schmuck protagonist is stellar.