On the Job (2013 film)

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On the Job
The film's poster. At the top, Piolo Pascual is shown pointing a pistol in a wide shot, and his running silhouette is to the left. Gerald Anderson is shown center-left, covered in blood and looking on his left with a grim and intimidating expression. He is shown far left with Joel Torre, both with their backs turned and handcuffed with a shoulder bag strapped on them. Torre is shown center right with the same expression as Anderson's with his right hand extended below, presumably pointing a gun. Joey Marquez is shown bottom left, running in the middle of a crowd. The abbreviation "OTJ" is shown bottom right, written in large, bold typeface; above it is a list of the cast and below the film's full title in small and red uppercase text.
Theatrical poster for the Philippine release
Directed by Erik Matti
Screenplay by
Story by Erik Matti
Starring
Music by Erwin Romulo
Cinematography Francis Ricardo Buhay III
Edited by Jay Halili
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release date
  • May 24, 2013 (2013-05-24) (Cannes Film Festival)
  • August 28, 2013 (2013-08-28) (Philippines)
  • September 27, 2013 (2013-09-27) (North America)
Running time
120 minutes[2]
Country Philippines
Language Filipino
Budget ₱47 million[3]
Box office ₱13.4 million[4]

On the Job (abbreviated as OTJ) is a 2013 Philippine neo-noir crime thriller film written and directed by Erik Matti. It stars Joel Torre, Gerald Anderson, Piolo Pascual and Joey Marquez. In the story, two contract killing prisoners (Torre and Anderson) are temporarily released from jail to carry out political executions in a corrupt justice system, whereas two law enforcers (Pascual and Marquez) are tasked with investigating the drug-related murder case, connected to the prison gun-for-hire business. Michael de Mesa, Leo Martinez, Vivian Velez, Angel Aquino, Shaina Magdayao and Rayver Cruz play supporting roles.

The inspiration for On the Job came from a Viva Films crew member who claimed to have been temporarily released from prison to perform contract killings before being reincarcerated. Matti incorporated this experience into a screenplay he co-wrote with Michiko Yamamoto. In 2010, Star Cinema initially declined to produce the film as they deemed it too violent compared to their usual romantic comedy projects, but by 2012, agreed to co-produce under Matti's independent film company, Reality Entertainment. Principal photography took place in Manila and lasted thirty-three days, on a production budget of 47 million (about US$1.1 million).

On the Job was shown in the Directors' Fortnight at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival on May 24, where it received praise and a standing ovation. The film opened in the Philippines on August 28 by Star Cinema, and in North America on September 27 by Well Go USA Entertainment, to very positive reviews from both local and international critics. An American remake directed by Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur was confirmed in June 2013, and principal photography on a miniseries sequel directed by Matti is underway as of July 2017.

Plot[edit]

Actor Role[2]
Joel Torre Mario Maghari
Gerald Anderson Daniel
Piolo Pascual Francis Coronel Jr.
Joey Marquez Joaquin Acosta
Shaina Magdayao Nicky
Empress Schuck Tina
Angel Aquino Lulette
Leo Martinez General Pacheco
Michael De Mesa Congressman Manrique
Vivian Velez Thelma
Rayver Cruz Bernabe
Lito Pimentel Pol

In a Philippines rife with corruption and poverty, hitmen Mario and Daniel are prisoners who are frequently released and paid to perform hits for their boss, Thelma. Mario spends his earnings on his law school tuition for his daughter Tina, and for his estranged wife, Lulette. Daniel, the younger and most reckless partner, pays remittances to his family and spends the rest on goods and privileges inside prison. Daniel has come to see Mario as a mentor and father figure. After the pair murder drug lord Tiu and return to prison, Tiu's murder case is assigned to NBI Agent Francis Coronel through the agent's father-in-law, Congressman Manrique. Coronel's father, also a police officer, died amid rumors of corruption. When Coronel and his partner Bernabe arrive at the local precinct, they clash with PNP Sergeant Joaquin Acosta, a twenty-year veteran who believes the case was taken from him for political reasons.

Mario and Daniel next carry out a hit on a woman named Linda. Upon hearing of her death, Linda's husband, Pol, immediately calls Acosta. Pol reveals that Tiu's murder is one of several assassinations ordered by Manrique's close friend General Pacheco, a military officer campaigning for public office in the Senate. Pacheco runs a gun-for-hire operation using prisoners, and kills others involved in the business in order to protect his campaign. Acosta agrees to protect Pol and heads to the station, where he finds Coronel and Bernabe. While the two confront Acosta, Daniel shoots Pol, but his pistol jams before he can deliver the fatal shot. The three officers converge on them, forcing Daniel and Mario to flee. Daniel shoots a hospital janitor to create a distraction, allowing Mario to kill Pol. The two then split up to escape; Coronel and Bernabe chase Daniel, and Acosta pursues Mario. During the chase, Bernabe is shot, and Mario sprains his ankle.

Coronel confronts Manrique during a campaign meeting, and explains that he intends to arrest Pacheco, but Manrique warns Coronel that Pacheco's indictment will cause their downfall, as Manrique is one of Pacheco's clients. Acosta relays Mario's composite sketch to the police to be broadcast on television. Frustrated of his father-in-law's involvement with Pacheco, Coronel decides to work with Acosta, who informs him that his father was not corrupt, but was in fact killed while trying to expose corruption—Acosta himself was demoted for his part in working to weed out corruption. When Coronel discovers Mario's identity, he visits Lulette, who is with her lover, Boy. Coronel informs Acosta of Lulette's affair, and he attempts to use it as leverage while interrogating Mario. He is unsuccessful, but Mario later expresses to Daniel a sense of betrayal by his family's abandonment.

Tiu's father tells Acosta and Coronel that he can provide them with the evidence they need to arrest Pacheco. On the way, though, Coronel abandons Acosta to visit Pacheco, who admits that he killed Coronel's father. Coronel secretly records a conversation between Pacheco and his men regarding the murder of Tiu's father.

The next day, Coronel informs his wife Nicky of his intention to take down Pacheco, incriminating Manrique in the process. Daniel murders Coronel in front of police headquarters. Enraged, Acosta attacks Manrique's and Pacheco's security detail, resulting in a brief shootout, until Pacheco orders them to cease fire. On the day Mario is to be released from prison, he realizes that he has no reason to leave, as his family no longer wants to have anything to do with him, and he stabs Daniel to death in order to remain incarcerated. Coronel's death is mourned by many, including Nicky. Acosta is discharged and investigated for Coronel's murder. Mario visits home, kills Boy in front of his family, and returns to prison.

Sometime later, a recovered Bernabe looks through Coronel's possessions and finds the cell phone that Coronel used to secretly record the incriminating conversation between Manrique and Pacheco. Bernabe requisitions the phone as evidence.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

A photograph of a smiling, heavyset gray-haired man wearing glasses with his tattooed arms crossed. Some bystanders are seen in the background.
Director Erik Matti during the film's premiere at the 2014 Morelia International Film Festival

The director of On the Job, Erik Matti, took inspiration from a service driver of Viva Films who claimed to have been temporarily released from prison to perform contract killings before being reincarcerated.[5] Matti shelved this idea until he ended his hiatus from directing. In 2009, he submitted a short film he directed entitled The Arrival and an eight-minute trailer of On the Job, featuring Joel Torre, to film festivals in an attempt to pitch the project.[5] Both entries were met with critical acclaim,[6] but the trailer piqued the interest of Twitch Film editor Todd Brown, who inquired if the project had entered production. When Matti told him that the film did not yet have a screenplay, Brown encouraged him to write it while he looked for investors for financing.[6] On the script's ninth revision, screenwriter Michiko Yamamoto came on board to help finalize the remainder of the draft.[6] Four uncredited consultants were also hired to develop details in the story.[3]

During the writing process, and even after the final draft was complete, Brown was unable to attract financiers; some felt the story was too nontraditional for Philippine cinema or too large a risk for overseas market.[5][6] Star Cinema, the largest production company in the Philippines, refused to make the film in 2010, as it was too violent and intense compared to their usual romantic comedy projects.[6][7] Matti offered the project to two of Star Cinema's talents, who also declined due to its gore and violence.[5][6] The project was once again put on hold as Matti entered the post-production stage of his horror fantasy film Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles (2012). At this time, he was contacted by an agent of Star Cinema requesting the revised script; three days later, the studio agreed to fund the film.[6]

Reality Entertainment, an independent film company Matti co-founded, co-produced On the Job with Star Cinema. Dondon Monteverde, co-founder of Reality Entertainment, said that many studios were impressed by the script but were reluctant to finance an expensive action film.[7] The production team considered reducing the film's budget, but decided not to, hoping to shift away from making low-budget films; Monteverde recalled arguing that it was "really time to do something big-budget and showcase it, rather than making something small and claiming budgetary restrictions. This time we didn't give ourselves any excuses. We went all the way".[7] The production cost for the film amounted to 47 million[3] (about US$1.1 million in 2013).[a]

Pre-production and filming[edit]

Joel Torre, who portrays Mario "Tatang" Maghari in the film, had already been cast before Matti's script revision; Angel Aquino plays his wife Lulette and Empress Schuck portrays his daughter Tina.[2][9] Of the role, Torre said, "[Mario] stuck with me, fought for me. And that gave me a lot of confidence, a Bushido Blade samurai."[6] Matti asked Piolo Pascual to play the role of Attorney Francis Coronel Jr;[6] Shaina Magdayao plays his wife Nicky and Michael de Mesa portrays his father-in-law Congressman Manrique.[2][9] The role of Daniel was originally written for John Lloyd Cruz, who was interested but had to decline due to scheduling conflicts; it went instead to Gerald Anderson. After a discussion between Pascual and Anderson about the film, Anderson signed on for the role. Anderson had only two weeks to film his scenes as he was occupied with a soap opera shoot at the time.[6] Dawn Jimenez appeared in her acting debut as Anderson's girlfriend Diane.[2][10]

The role of Sergeant Joaquin Acosta was to be played by Richard Gomez, but he chose instead to pursue a political career in Ormoc.[6][11] Matti later cast Joey Marquez; although Marquez was seen primarily as a comedian, Matti believed he would be able to portray a simultaneously charismatic and obnoxious character.[11] The cast also features Leo Martinez as General Pacheco, Lito Pimentel as Pol, William Martinez as Rex, Vivian Velez as Thelma, and Rayver Cruz as Bernabe.[2]

A photograph of the Red EPIC camera, with its output screen unfolded.
On the Job was shot with the Red EPIC camera.

Richard V. Somes was both the production designer and action choreographer of On the Job.[12] To prepare for the prison scenes, the production crew built a set in an abandoned building in Marikina, hiring two hundred extras to play convicts.[6] Principal photography lasted thirty-three days, on location in multiple Manila areas, including Manila City Hall, a Light Rail train station, and Caloocan.[13] The opening scenes were shot during the annual Basaan Festival in San Juan.[14] Filming was stretched across over seventy locations,[6] and the crew sometimes shot numerous areas in a given day.[13] On choosing Manila as a key location for the film, Matti said:

This is a Manila movie. We wanted to show as much of the cross section of Manila as we could. This is, I think, the most ambitious attempt at putting together as much variety [in a local film] in terms of look and feel.[6]

Francis Ricardo Buhay III served as the cinematographer, who had also worked on Matti's films Tiktik and Rigodon (2013).[15] Rather than setting up and changing lights for certain shots, Buhay captured the film using the Red EPIC camera;[13] with the Red EPIC's available lighting function, including the ability to light an entire set, the film was styled as a modern noir without appearing low-budget.[6]

Music[edit]

Erwin Romulo, the editor-in-chief for the Philippine edition of Esquire until 2013, served as the musical director of On the Job.[16][17] At their first meeting, Matti hired Romulo as the music supervisor, but Romulo's role transformed as he wanted to produce most of the tracks he had planned for the film. Romulo employed lesser-known original Pilipino music tracks from otherwise prominent Filipino musicians, such as "Maskara" and "Pinoy Blues" by the Juan de la Cruz Band. He approached Dong Abay and Radioactive Sago Project bassist Francis de Veyra to perform the two songs, arranged by Armi Millare. Additional tracks were performed by Ely Buendia, the late FrancisM, and the local band Bent Lynchpin. One member of Bent Lynchpin, Fred Sandoval, was also the film's music editor.[16]

According to Romulo, the tracks are "local hip hop" heavily influenced by DJ Shadow's album Endtroducing...... He also credited film scores composed by Lalo Schifrin, and director Ishmael Bernal's longtime composer Vanishing Tribe as major influences for the soundtrack.[16]

Release[edit]

Theatrical run and distribution[edit]

On the Job had its world premiere in the Directors' Fortnight section of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival on May 24.[12] Although it did not win the Caméra d'Or prize, it was well regarded by the viewers, receiving a two-minute standing ovation.[3][10] The film had its Philippine release on August 28, 2013 and, over three weeks, grossed ₱13,459,037 at the box office.[3][4]

The film was released in North America on September 27 by Well Go USA Entertainment.[2] Well Go USA had bought the North American rights for the film before it premiered at Cannes; they also acquired rights for DVD, Blu-ray, and video on demand distributions.[1][18] The deal was brokered by Well Go USA President Doris Pfardrescher and XYZ Films founders Nate Bolotin and Aram Tertzakian.[19] On the Job played in twenty-nine North American theaters in three weeks, grossing $164,620.[20] It was also released in France by Wild Side Films[1] and in Australia by Madman Entertainment.[21] The deals with French and North American distribution companies secured $350,000 (₱12 million).[1]

The film was also made available to the North American market through Netflix by Well Go USA.[22]

Home media[edit]

On the Job was released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 18, 2014, courtesy of Well Go USA.[23] Special features include making-of footage, deleted scenes, and film trailers of Special ID, Confession of Murder, and Commitment. Justin Remer of DVD Talk praised both the Blu-ray's video and audio transfers while generally criticizing its special features.[24] Both Kevin Yeoman of High-Def Digest and Jeffrey Kauffman of Blu-ray.com scored the release 3.5/5, and offered similar commentary in regard to the transfers and special features.[25][26] On the Job accumulated $167,128 video sales in North America.[27]

Reception[edit]

Reviews[edit]

On the Job drew very positive reviews from both local and international critics,[9] many of whom favorably compared it to the works of filmmakers Johnnie To and Michael Mann.[30] The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 100% rating based on thirteen reviews, and an average rating of 6.7/10.[31] Metacritic rated it 70/100 based on eleven reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[32]

Justin Chang of Variety called it "a gritty, convoluted but steadily engrossing crime thriller ... a tense, well-acted B movie". Furthermore, he praised its soundtrack, "neon-smeared" cinematography, and "whiplash editing".[12] Neil Young of The Hollywood Reporter described it as a "likably rough-edged hitmen-vs.-cops thriller", and similarly praised the editing and cinematography.[33] Writing for The New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis selected On the Job as her "Critic's Pick", calling it a "propulsive thriller" which "is never less than arresting".[34] Gabe Toro of IndieWire gave the film a B minus grade rating and called it "a propulsive new actioner", comparing it to the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs (2002) and its American remake The Departed (2006).[28] Justin Monroe of Complex magazine gave it 7/10, writing, "On the Job could have been a simple-minded, serviceable action flick if all it had going for it was the grit and grime of Filipino streets, stylized violence, and its insane premise, but Matti's thriller has more substance, driven by more fully realized characters and the compelling relationships between these men as they struggle to survive."[35]

In an otherwise positive review, Allan Hunter of Screendaily.com felt the film lacked "nuanced characters or subtle dialogue", but said that nonetheless, the film was "involving enough to forgive any infelicities". He also praised the acting and subject matter, prompting him to regard it as "essential viewing on its home territory".[36] Derek Elley of Film Business Asia found the film engrossing but unnecessarily complicated at times, writing, "What keeps the viewer hooked are the performances."[37] Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club gave the film a B minus grade, complimenting it as "a scuzzy Filipino crime flick" that was weakened by "humdrum and occasionally heavy-handed police procedural".[38] Andrew Schenker of Slant Magazine scored the film 2.5/4, saying, "Even as the plot takes on increasingly convoluted turns, the movie never fails to keep insisting upon the rottenness of every facet of Filipino society ... [it] is far more successful when plunging us into one of its thrilling action set pieces."[39]

In the Philippines, members of the Cinema Evaluation Board gave the film a grade of "A."[14] Mikhail Lecaros of GMA News praised the action scenes as "technically polished while simultaneously visceral – even intimate – in their brutality".[15] Writing for Rappler, Carljoe Javier expressed hope that the film would "[serve] as a shot of adrenaline, not only to the hearts of viewers, but hopefully also to mainstream cinema".[40] Mari-An Santos of Philippine Entertainment Portal highly recommended it as "a well-crafted film, from script to direction and acting to post-production ... it's a damn good film".[14] Phillip Cu-Unjieng of Philippine Daily Inquirer praised the ensemble cast as "top-notch" and the film as "dark, brooding, muscular and visceral, yet complex and concise in its story-telling".[41]

Accolades[edit]

In addition to featuring at the Cannes Film Festival, On the Job was screened at the 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival in Bucheon, South Korea.[42] Joel Torre won the Best Actor award and the film received the Jury Prize.[42][43] At the 62nd FAMAS Awards, the film won six of its twelve nominations—Best Picture, Best Director (Matti), Best Screenplay (Matti and Michiko Yamamoto), Best Editing (Jay Halili), Best Story (Matti), and Best Sound (Corinne de San Jose). Piolo Pascual also received the Fernando Poe Jr. Memorial Award for Excellence for his performance.[44] At the 37th Gawad Urian Awards, the film received eight nominations, winning two—Best Actor (Torre), and Best Sound (de San Jose).[45][46]

Adaptations[edit]

Remake[edit]

In June 2013, a US remake of the film was confirmed, to be directed by Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur, director of Contraband (2012) and 2 Guns (2013).[47][48] It will be produced by Kormákur's Blueeyes Productions. XYZ Films, the production and sales company that represents the international rights to the film, will also co-produce and will release it worldwide.[49]

Sequel[edit]

In June 2016, a sequel miniseries was announced. Matti hinted that its focus will be on "a protagonist that is not necessarily good. But there's a bigger evil above them and you start rooting for the bad guy".[50] The six-part series will be a co-production between streaming service HOOQ, Globe Telecom's Globe Studios, and Matti's Reality Entertainment; it will be exclusively available on HOOQ. Directed by Matti himself, the ensemble cast will feature Leo Martinez reprising his film role, Arjo Atayde, Teroy Guzman, Bela Padilla, Neil Ryan Sese, Dominic Ochoa, Smokey Manaloto, Jake Macapagal, Ria Atayde, and Christopher de Leon.[51][52] Of the project, Matti said:

We wanted to bring back many (of the original characters) into the story but since we jumped off to another topic, another institution, which is media, we wanted to refresh the cast of characters. What we enjoyed in the first movie is how we put together also the kind of casting that we got, (meaning) all of those actors we admired. We wanted to also have the same kind of feel. We brought a lot of actors that could possibly do new and refreshing kind of roles.[53]

As of July 2017, principal photography on the sequel is underway. Simultaneously, HOOQ opened a casting call website for those wanting to appear in the series. A live audition was held August 5, 2017.[54]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ The exchange rate in 2013 was 42.446 Philippine peso (₱) per 1 US dollar (US$), making ₱47 million worth about US$1.107 million.[8]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]