The war on drugs in the Philippines, made as a gripping genre piece by Brillante Mendoza in his usual docu-drama style.
Dir. Brillante Mendoza
2018 | Philippines | Crime/Drama | 94 mins | 1.85:1 | Filipino & Tagalog
NC16 (passed clean) for drug references and violence
Cast: Allen Dizon, Elijah Filamor, Angela Cortez
Plot: Police officer Espino and Elijah, a small-time pusher-turned-informant, provide the intelligence for a drug raid. Before the investigators arrive at the crime scene, they walk off with a backpack full of money and methamphetamine.
Awards: Official Selection (Busan)
International Sales: Memento Films
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
(Reviewed on screener)
I would recommend this title to those looking to explore Brillante Mendoza as a filmmaker, as it brings together the director’s trademark docu-drama style and his favourite themes of society and politics in an appealing, slightly mainstream genre piece that should have a broader reach than his more challenging if sometimes provocative semi-arthouse works like Service (2008) and Ma’ Rosa (2016).
The Duterte war on drugs in the Philippines is the setting, with shots of marching police contingents bookending the film making an obvious point—that there shall be no compromise as the authorities seek to win this brutal war. Some civilians, on the other hand, seem undeterred, many of whom seek underground tactics to make ends meet for their families through drug couriering between towns.
Alpha: The Right to Kill presents this irony in a straightforward narrative involving a corrupted police sergeant and his ‘Alpha’ source who has contacts with drug kingpins. The film is mostly gripping, with the first act centering on a police raid whose sound design draws influences from that of Sicario (2015). The rest of the film follows the two abovementioned characters as they become entangled in an ever-deepening crisis after the raid.
We have read news about the drug war in the country, but Mendoza’s work here gives us an excellent insight into the intricate problems happening in the streets, even if the social realist film is a fictionalised account.