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 Gone Too Far

    Gone Too Far

    Two estranged teenage brothers, one who grew up in Nigeria and one who frew up in Peckham, meet for the first time and struggle to accept each other

    On Film4: 10 Jul 11:10PM

  • Film4 The Three Stooges

    The Three Stooges

    The Farrelly Brothers pay tribute to The Three Stooges as Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos bring a new take on Larry, Curly and Moe

    On Film4: 4 Jul 7:10PM

  • Film4 Kick Ass

    Summer Action Season 2015 on Film4

    Twelve nights of blockbuster action and adventure, every night from 9 on Film4

  • Film4 Arbitrage

    Arbitrage on Film4

    Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling star in a drama about a hedge fund manager who makes a crucial error while attempting to sell his portfolio

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • At 5.20pm, a young boy discovers a book that reveals a magical world in fantasy adventure The Spiderwick Chronicles. https://t.co/dt2xCc6CFA

  • Afternoon, folks! Up next at 3.05pm, Anne Hathaway & Julie Andrews star in The Princess Diaries. https://t.co/0dPMBdSgR7

  • World cinema fans! Our late-night highlight at 12.50am is Akira Kurosawa's classic adventure The Hidden Fortress. http://t.co/DXt0I47ICy

  • At 11pm, Wu-Tang Clan's @RZA writes, directs & stars in martial arts action-thriller The Man With The Iron Fists. http://t.co/X1T2MVaD6a

  • RT @Film4FrightFest: Good luck to everyone with getting your @Film4FrightFest festival passes tomorrow. Tickets on sale at 12.00 noon.

Share