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

    We Bought a Zoo

    A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family

    On Film4: 6 Sep 6:25PM

  • Film4

    The Nebraskan

    Philip Carey stars as a calvary scout who attempts to make peace with the Sioux Indians

    On Film4: 8 Sep 11:00AM

  • Film4

    Trance on Film4

    A crime thriller by Danny Boyle, starring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson.

  • Film4

    Stand Up Guys on Film4

    Al Pacino and Christoper Walken star in this crime comedy about a pair of criminals reunited after one gets out of prison

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • @hidehidecans The Longest Day, Kiki's Delivery Service and Big Fish are all superb films, if you ask us. And they're all on today!

  • THIS JUST IN: Out, damned trailer! Out, I say! Michael Fassbender is Macbeth: https://t.co/JPWk3WujYw http://t.co/fE7vgVoFXv

  • RT @Film4Insider: #LFF's Dare Gala (in association with @TimeOutFilm) is Yorgos Lanthimos' unconventional love story The Lobster. http://t.…

  • RT @Film4Insider: .@lennyabrahamson's Film4-backed Room, starring @brielarson, is screening in #LFF's Official Competition selection. http:…

  • "The thing that's always worried me about being one of the few is the way we keep on getting fewer." At 11am, The Longest Day.

Share