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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.22%
Worth A Look66.67%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 11.11%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"He's a cop. She's a serial killer. They're in love."
4 stars

Even more than the rest of Asia, the Philippine islands seem to have had their culture just smashed into small bits by the West. Just looking at the cast and credits; the facial features are mostly Pacific Islander, but the names are mostly Spanish, and there are a lot of English words heard amidst the Filipino/Tagalog dialog. I mention this not just because this is the first Filipino film I can recall seeing, but because the movie itself seems built of parts that don't quite fit together cleanly, and not just in terms of combining romantic comedy and revenge thriller. Writer/director Quark Henares doesn't quite seem to know HOW he wants to tell his story, and basically throws his hands up at the end.

Props to the beginning, though, where we're treated to a couple of Dates From Hell. In the first, a man drones on and on about himself, quickly revealing himself as a prize jerk, and after a few minutes, his date Francesca "Keka" Jose (Katya Santos) makes her way to the refrigerator, pulls out a garrotte, and strangles him. Having nearly as bad a time is policeman Jason Sanchez (Wendell Ramos), who makes a quick trip to the men's room to psyche himself up to propose to his beautiful girlfriend, only to be dumped. The two will, of course, have a couple of chance meetings later, and start dating, but first we learn about Keka.

A few years earlier, her college boyfriend P.J. (Jordan Herrera) was killed by members of a rival fraternity, but because the five were members of wealthy and powerful families - especially Bobby Domingo (Ryan Eigenmann), whose father was a senator - they got off. She figures it's eye-for-an-eye time, and gets P.J.'s fraternity brother Bhong (Vhong Navarro) to help her train. What surprises her is how much of a thrill killing the five is - way better than her job working late nights doing tech support with an American accent in a call center! And of course, Jason has no idea that the girl he's dating has committed the seemingly unconnected murders he's investigating.

Though she's a killer, Keka's got our sympathy from the start. I'm certain a lot of people in the audience were nodding their heads, thinking that yes, that guy's got it coming during the opening scene, even before we learn about the murder of her old boyfriend. Making the murder seem to be in response to exaggerated boorishness puts the audience in an exaggerated-comedy frame of mind which carries through even after we learn the motivation is serious. And Ms. Santos somehow manages to make Keka never come off as unhinged - aside from her quest for vengeance, she seems pretty normal, not capricious or unusually friendly. She works hard at training herself, she recognizes that things probably won't have a happy ending, and displays a sort of guileless enthusiasm when addressing the audience directly.

Well, not quite directly. Throughout the movie, both Keka and Jason appear to be taking part in interview segments, talking about the story's events in the past tense. It's kind of an interesting technique, more direct than giving them friends to talk to about it - although kind of unnecessary, since Keka is already talking to Bhong about it (although she might not talk to Bhong about both her new boyfriend and offing the folks who killed her old boyfriend). It does seem to imply an end which the film may or may not deliver. Even stranger is when one of Keka's confessional moments turns into a musical fantasy sequence (which is a flat-out riot). Both Keka and Jason also contribute voice-overs. A movie doesn't have to be bound to a specific narrative technique, but the techniques used probably shouldn't contradict each other.

The cast often seems to deliver more enthusiasm than ability; following some links on the IMDB has much of that cast appearing in things like "Viva Hot Babes" (Viva being the name of the production company) and "Sex Drive". I haven't seen these movies, but with her extremely busty figure and decent comic chops, Ms. Santos would probably be a natural in cheap exploitation films. She is notable for more than her breasts, and in fact gives a pretty good performance. Just be aware that the Filipino film industry probably doesn't have a lot of money to throw around, the cast and crew appear to have cut their teeth on "bold" films, and the writer-director is himself very young - in his early twenties when Keka was made.

The plot involves multiple murders, but this is a very funny movie - the opening scene is indicative of the kind of black comedy it goes for most of the time. Jason's naive outlook when he meets Keka, along with her frustration with the world around her, are milked for more than a few laughs. The scene where Jason, Keka, and the last of her victims are in a room and the victim seems like the only sane one is good comedy, too.

I'm not generally a fan of cutting a movie slack because of limits on the production - my time, I figure, is just as valuable. "Keka" really doesn't need much slack cut, though, and is worth checking out for the adventurous. If Quark Henares is doing something this good at such a young age, he's definitely a guy to watch as he matures and has more resources.

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originally posted: 06/24/05 02:42:32
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival. For more in the 2005 San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/11/08 yatin parkhani really funny saw it at aaiff, still remember it 5 stars
11/23/05 Renan this is a good film, one of my favorite pinoy films... 5 stars
6/26/05 Charlene Javier It's good to see other people appreciate our movies but this one is pure B-movie crap. 2 stars
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Directed by
  Quark Henares

Written by
  Quark Henares

  Katya Santos
  Wendell Ramos
  Vhong Navarro
  Ryan Eigenmann

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