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Buy Bust poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byErik Matti
Produced byVincent Del Rosario
Veronique Del Rosario-Corpus
Erik Matti
Screenplay byAnton Santamaria
Erik Matti
Story byErik Matti[1]
StarringAnne Curtis
Brandon Vera
Victor Neri
Arjo Atayde
Levi Ignacio
Nonie Buencamino
Lao Rodriguez
Alex Calleja
Joross Gamboa
Sheenly Gener
Mara Lopez
AJ Muhlach
Tarek El Tayech
Maddie Martinez
Ricky Pascua
Nafa Hilario
Ian Ignacio
Mikey Alcaraz
Music byErwin Romulo
Malek Lopez
CinematographyNeil Derrick Bion
Edited byJay Halili
Distributed by
Release date
  • June 29, 2018 (2018-06-29) (NYAFF)
  • August 1, 2018 (2018-08-01) (Philippines)
Running time
126–128 minutes[2][3][4]
Budget₱86 million ($1.6 million)[5]
Box office₱97 million[5]

BuyBust (styled BUYBUST) is a 2018 Philippine action thriller[6] film co-written and directed by Erik Matti. It stars an ensemble cast top-billed by Anne Curtis and Brandon Vera. The plot centers on a team summoned by the PDEA to conduct a drug bust in a Manila slum. Realizing the mission is poorly executed, the team find themselves trapped by settlers and attempts to escape by fighting their way out. The film has been viewed as a social commentary on the controversial Philippine Drug War initiated by the Duterte government.

Production on Matti's "first full-on action film" began in 2016, and Curtis and Vera were cast as leads the following year. On a budget of ₱86 million, principal photography began in March 2017. The film premiered at the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) on June 29, 2018, had a wide Philippine release on August 1 and a limited North American release on August 10. Critical reception to the film was generally favorable, attaining praise for its action scenes, theme, technical aspects, and Curtis' against-type performance. It grossed ₱97 million worldwide.


Due to the Philippine Drug War, most of the country's barangays have been drug free. Drug dealer Teban (Alex Calleja) is interrogated by Detective Dela Cruz (Lao Rodriguez) and Detective Alvarez (Nonie Buencamino), trying to find out the location of big-time drug lord Biggie Chen (Arjo Atayde). Upon learning that Chen is hiding at the Barangay Gracia ni Maria in Tondo, Manila, the authorities launch a "buy-bust" operation to capture Chen.

Rookie police officer Nina Manigan (Anne Curtis) joins a new anti-narcotic elite squad of the PDEA after surviving the slaughter of her entire former squad in a drug raid compromised by corrupt cops. Her new squad is chosen to conduct the mission against Chen; the entrapment is to take place in Plaza Rajah Sulayman. Teban is used as a bait to lure Chen, but the latter did not appear.

The squad then proceeds to the slums of Gracia and split up into the Alpha and Bravo teams. Inside, Teban meets with Chongki (Levi Ignacio) to take him over to Chen. However, the operation was revealed as bait to massacre the PDEA officers. The Alpha team is slaughtered, leaving Dela Cruz as the only survivor. The Bravo team, led by Lacson, fall back but find themselves trapped by slum settlers and drug mafias in which they must fight their way out. Manigan then kills Dela Cruz upon finding out that he is a part of the illegal trade.

Fed up with the relentless operations conducted by authorities, the dwellers of Gracia erupted into a violent riot against the PDEA officers and the drug lords. In the ensuing chaos, Rico, Bernie, Teban, Chongki, Solomon, Manok and hundreds of other civilians are killed amid the riots and the gunfights. In the aftermath, Chen is captured, and Manigan, who ends up as being the sole survivor of her squad, finds out that Detective Alvarez was the one behind the illegal drug trade from Chen. While in police custody, Alvarez kills Chen; Manigan then kills Alvarez, who places the gun on Chen's lifeless body, stating that the criminal "fought back".



Director Erik Matti

Production on BuyBust began as early as mid-2016 which, according to director Erik Matti, included: "finding a good mix of actors, training, pre-sales, test shoots, storyboards, training, pre-vis, look tests, set construction, training finding the right balance between budget ambition and resources".[8] Matti also wrote the screenplay, which underwent a total of 16 revisions.[8] A co-production of Viva Films and his production company Reality Entertainment,[6] he described the project his "first full-on action film" in recent years.[8][9]

Anne Curtis and MMA fighter Brandon Vera joined the cast in late June 2016.[10] A week before filming, Curtis performed rigorous training at the Scout Ranger Training School, where she undertook knife fighting in close quarters and basic weapon handling.[11] Curtis was also trained in Pekiti-Tirsia Kali,[12] and running while encumbered with 12 kg (26 lb) of weight.[11] She elected performing most of her stunts by herself.[8][11]

Principal photography began on March 28, 2017,[8] with Neil Derrick Bion serving as cinematographer. Shooting lasted 56 days,[13] during which a total of 1,278 extras and 309 stuntmen cooperated.[14]


Journalists write that the film served as a social commentary on the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte and the consequences brought about following his controversial war on drugs.[2][3] Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, Clarence Tsui said, "BuyBust is another strong Philippine entry seeking to debunk a strongman's promises of retaining social order through violence, which actually breeds irreversible moral corruption, casting every social class asunder."[2] Tsui further writes that "Matti is probably making a point by depicting the masses as a loony army," citing the director's criticism of Duterte as well as his supporters, to whom he cast an inflammatory remark through social media.[2]


At the urging of the producers, Matti submitted the BuyBust script to the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival, but was rejected in the first tier of the selection process.[15][16] The executive committee who rejected Matti's script was composed of three new members that were tapped as replacements to those who had resigned due to issues of corruption within the committee. The resignees alleged that the committee favored "putting too much emphasis on commerce over art".[17] Matti denounced the incident on a lengthy Facebook post, in which he argued that the selection process was "rigged" to favor "the powerful personalities controlling the festival".[18] In the wake of the incident, he stated in early July 2017 that he does not intend to submit the finished film, which is the second tier of the selection process.[15]

The film was initially scheduled for a Philippine premiere on February 28, 2018, but was postponed after U.S. distributor Well Go USA acquired the North American rights to the film.[6] The deal was brokered between Well Go USA executive Dylan Marchetti and Nate Bolotin of XYZ Films.[19] The film had its world premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) on June 29, 2018, and was the venue's closing feature film.[6] It was released in the Philippines on August 1, 2018, and was followed by a limited North American release on August 10.[3] The Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival opened its 14th edition with BuyBust, held on August 4, 2018.[20]


Box office[edit]

The film grossed $178,471 in the U.S. and Canada,[21] and ₱97 million worldwide.[5]

Critical response[edit]

The film enjoyed good reviews upon its foreign release.[22] The review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives a score of 81 percent, with a weighted average of 6.46 out of 10 based on 16 reviews from critics.[23] On Metacritic, it received "[g]enerally favorable reviews," with an average rating of 68 out of 100 based on 10 reviews.[24] Members of the Cinema Evaluation Board gave the film an "A" grade.[13]

Foreign and domestic critics praised the film for the intensity of its action scenes, commentary on the Philippine Drug War, Anne Curtis' against-type performance, Neil Derrick Bion's cinematography, and Erwin Romulo and Malek Lopez's score.[3][4][7][25] Clarence Tsui, in a positive review for The Hollywood Reporter, described the film as essential viewing on the Philippines where it is "bound to raise a ruckus when it opens" and "likely to captivate audiences".[2] Fred Hawson in ABS-CBN News complimented the film "very badass, very hardcore, yet so engrossing and entertaining", and gave it a score of 9 out of 10.[7] Oggs Cruz of Rappler liked Matti's depiction of violence as an attempt to deliver his political message across, "It isn't just a film to be enjoyed for its stunts and astounding set pieces, thrilling and exquisitely choreographed as they are."[26] Rokey Desingaño in Manila Bulletin complimented BuyBust as "first-rate" and credited it with bringing Philippine action films "to another level".[27]

Some critics were less enthusiastic about the film. Stephanie Mayo gave it 1 out of 5 stars in a pan review for the Daily Tribune, criticizing the repetitiveness of the action whose "speedy editing and the shaky cam prevent you from fully enjoying the gore".[28] Rob Hunter of Film School Rejects was similarly critical of the action, which he felt were "surprisingly dull and repetitive" and "won't impress in their choreography, but worse, they disappoint in their execution". Though he praised Curtis and Brandon Vera, Hunter said the film was "too long, too sloppy, and too underwhelming" in general.[29] Andrew Mack in Screen Anarchy criticized the film's derivative set-up and "awkward and clumsy" action choreography: "All of it feels basic and fundamental at best. Any moments of inspiration or coolness, and there are some, are overwhelmed by mediocre execution."[30] Both Hunter and Mack agree that BuyBust place emphasis on "quantity over quality",[29][30] with the latter concluding: "While it may deliver in volume it is nothing more than just white noise."[30]

See also[edit]

  • The Raid, a 2011 Indonesian action film with a similar premise


  1. ^ a b c Sallan, Edwin P. (February 24, 2018). "U.S.-bound 'BuyBust' gears up for international release, moves PH playdate". Archived from the original on February 24, 2018. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Tsui, Clarence (July 17, 2018). "'BuyBust': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 18, 2018. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kuipers, Richard (July 16, 2018). "Film Review: 'BuyBust'". Variety. Archived from the original on July 16, 2018. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Berra, John (July 16, 2018). "'BuyBust': NYAFF Review". Screen Daily. Archived from the original on July 17, 2018. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Dimaculangan, Jocelyn (August 25, 2018). "Anne Curtis-starrer BuyBust grosses PHP97 million in global box office". Philippine Entertainment Portal. Archived from the original on August 28, 2018. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d "Anne Curtis' 'Buy Bust' to premiere in New York film fest". ABS-CBN News. June 13, 2018. Archived from the original on June 13, 2018. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d Hawson, Fred (August 1, 2018). "Movie review: Explosive 'BuyBust' not for the faint of heart". ABS-CBN News. Archived from the original on August 1, 2018. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Anne Curtis starts shooting action film". ABS-CBN News. March 29, 2017. Archived from the original on June 12, 2017. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  9. ^ Miralles, Nitz (March 31, 2017). "Unang full action film ni Erik Matti, sinimulan na ang shooting". Balita News Tabloid (in Filipino). Archived from the original on December 19, 2017. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  10. ^ Castillejo, Dyan (June 29, 2016). "Anne Curtis to star in action film with Brandon Vera". ABS-CBN News. Archived from the original on June 12, 2017. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c Dimaculagan, Jocelyn (August 5, 2016). "Anne Curtis shows knife fighting skills; joins Scout Ranger Training School". Philippine Entertainment Portal. Archived from the original on October 10, 2016. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  12. ^ Abanilla, Clarizel (June 19, 2018). "Anne Curtis thriller to open locally on Aug. 1". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on June 20, 2018. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  13. ^ a b Bayle, Alfred (July 20, 2018). "Erik Matti believes 'Buy Bust' his best work so far". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on July 20, 2018. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  14. ^ "Watch: Anne Curtis, Brandon Vera behind the scenes of 'Buy Bust'". Rappler. November 17, 2017. Archived from the original on January 18, 2018. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  15. ^ a b Radovan, Jill Tan (July 5, 2017). "Erik Matti won't re-submit Buy Bust to MMFF". Archived from the original on July 5, 2017. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  16. ^ Severo, Jan Milo (April 17, 2017). "Erik Matti airs frustration over MMFF selection process". The Philippine Star. Archived from the original on July 28, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  17. ^ "'MMFF put emphasis on commerce over art' – resigned execom members". ABS-CBN News. July 5, 2017. Archived from the original on July 10, 2017. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  18. ^ "Erik Matti not giving up on destroying alleged MMFF 'cartel'". ABS-CBN News. July 12, 2017. Archived from the original on July 25, 2017. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  19. ^ Roxborough, Scott (February 18, 2018). "Berlin: Well Go USA Takes Erik Matti's 'Buybust' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on February 22, 2018. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  20. ^ "Cinemalaya 2018 opens with 'BuyBust'; Anne Curtis overwhelmed by cheers". ABS-CBN News. August 4, 2018. Archived from the original on August 4, 2018. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  21. ^ "Buybust". Box Office Mojo. Amazon (IMDb). Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  22. ^ Afinidad-Bernardo, Deni Rose M. "'BuyBust,' Anne Curtis get rave reviews from Hollywood press". The Philippine Star. Archived from the original on August 11, 2018. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  23. ^ "BuyBust (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  24. ^ "BuyBust Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive (CBS Corporation). Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  25. ^ Yonzon, Zach (August 6, 2018). "Movie Review: BuyBust". Spot.PH. Summit Media. Archived from the original on August 7, 2018. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  26. ^ Cruz, Oggs (August 3, 2018). "'BuyBust' review: Violence, deaths, and discourse". Rappler. Archived from the original on August 6, 2010. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  27. ^ Desingaño, Rokey (August 8, 2018). "'BuyBust' brings action films to another level". Manila Bulletin. Archived from the original on August 9, 2018. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  28. ^ Mayo, Stephanie (August 5, 2018). "Review: BuyBust". Daily Tribune. Archived from the original on August 6, 2018. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  29. ^ a b Hunter, Rob (July 20, 2018). "'BuyBust' Review: An Action Film Where Quantity Reigns Over Quality (Fantasia 2018)". Film School Rejects. Archived from the original on August 2, 2018. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
  30. ^ a b c Mack, Andrew (August 2, 2018). "Fantasia 2018 Review: BUYBUST, Bust is One Word For it..." Screen Anarchy. Archived from the original on August 3, 2018. Retrieved August 3, 2018.

External links[edit]