Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Crime, Thriller
  • 2013
  • 115 mins

Metro Manila

Film4 Metro Manila

Synopsis

Sean Ellis’s persuasive twist on the buddy-cop drama, telling the tale of an overly-trusting couple's journey from the rice fields of Banue to the crime-ridden capital of the Philippines, Manila.

Critic's Review

Shot entirely in Tagalog, Metro Manila grants Sean Ellis membership of the exclusive club of British directors bold enough to make movies in languages other than English, joining the likes of Peter Strickland (Katalin Varga, 2009) and Gareth Evans (The Raid, 2012). Initially written in English, Ellis (who doesn’t speak the language) worked with a Filipino cast and crew, including theatre actors Jake Macapagal and Althea Vega.

Macapagal leads the film as the doe-eyed Oscar, who moves his family from the Philippines’ poverty-stricken rice fields to Manila in the hope of a brighter future. Once established in a ramshackle hut in the depths of the city's shantytown, both Oscar and his morose wife Mai (Althea Vega) go in search of work. While Mai ends up in a sleazy bar/brothel, Oscar finds a more promising job with a security firm transporting large sums of cash for the city's wealthier citizens. Of course, not is all as it seems, and Oscar’s colleague Ong (John Arcilla), who provides him with clean clothes and a bedsit, has an ulterior motive.

The result is a socio-economic critique cum heist thriller which navigates the well-worn genre tropes of the buddy-cop movie, and ends up in its best moments recalling Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winner The Departed (2006) or David Ayer’s End Of Watch (2012). Whilst much of the film is familiar - the morally corrosive quality of the urban environment, the shifty partner and so on - Ellis throws in a few unforeseen twists and turns.

After the art house slice of erotica Cashback (a 2004 short, later developed into a feature length movie), and psychological horror The Broken (2009), Metro Manila sees Ellis maturing as a filmmaker. Crafted around the real-life experience of witnessing an armoured-car hijacking, the film features thrilling, energetic heist sequences – but Ellis is mindful to found the movie on strong characterisation and family drama for maximum effect.

In a nutshell: Metro Manila may be rife with well-worn genre devices, but this sporadically creative thriller is bolstered by Sean Ellis’s keen eye for both visceral action and relationship drama.

By Joe Walsh

Cast & Connections

  • Director: Sean Ellis
  • Screen Writer: Sean Ellis

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Serena

    Romantic drama set in Depression-era North Carolina starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

    On Film4: 3 Oct 9:00PM

  • Film4

    Destry

    Audie Murphy stars in this remake of 1939's Destry Rides Again, which is directed by the man who made that previous version, George Marshall.

    On Film4: 28 Sep 4:25PM

  • Film4

    Macbeth on Film4

    Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard star in Justin Kurzel's gripping adaptation of Macbeth, playing for the first time on Film4.

  • Film4

    Lone Survivor on Film4

    Mark Wahlberg stars in exciting military action-drama Lone Survivor, playing for the first time on Film4.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2016: Top Ten

    Film4.com Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival...   The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

    As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with Film4.com editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • At 11am, Dana Andrews is a state attorney tasked with proving a murder suspect's innocence in Elia Kazan's Boomeran… https://t.co/OGvUdJ0Tf9

  • “You don't know what you're dealing with.” At 10.45pm, Danny Glover & one big ugly mother star in Predator 2. https://t.co/AZtLLw5Yyw

  • Our late-night highlight at 12.55am is Charlie Kaufman's postmodern, existential drama Synecdoche, New York. https://t.co/HVIQhJCEQy

  • In an hour at 10.45pm, the ultimate hunter has a few days to kill in LA in Predator 2. https://t.co/cCpIFJjvJk

  • RT @Film4: On Sunday, we're screening Peter Berg's powerful military drama Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg. https://t.co/TjrDo0lwpK

Share