Boy Golden: Shoot to Kill the Arturo Porcuna Story Review

And so I left the theater screening BOY GOLDEN, E.R. Ejercito’s biographical portrait of notorious gangster Arturo Porcuna, with such a smile. It’s a good thing I saw this last, right after the thinly-veiled Ping Lacson escapade that is 10000 HOURS. For me, BOY GOLDEN was a great antidote after what I saw. Not that the former was a lousy movie. In fact, it was alright. But I’ll get back to that later.

boy golden review popgoesmanila

Now, to be clear, I wasn’t a fan of Governor E.R.’s last two ventures–2011’s “Manila Kingpin” and 2012’s “El Presidente”–as they came off as self-indulgent. But this one was something else.

I’ll give out examples.

For one, the prologue was a winner. We begin with a neon-lit bar full of shady characters. Summarized within a minute, it had almost every trope you could associate with American film noir of the 1940s and 1950s, with a little influence from yakuza flicks (Suzuki’s TOKYO DRIFTER comes to mind), and transplanted into Manila circa 1960. Then comes this guy who rolls out some Elvis Presley songs on the jukebox, and a crossfire begins. Think Tarantino, but not so blatant. For laughs, an old man makes his way across the room while the fight ensues. By the time he reaches the door, the gig’s over.

The next scene features a brief cruise around a Manilean street of yesteryear. For the first time in so many years, here is a local period piece that was able to make Manila look so stunningly retro. For one moment, I felt transported back to 1960s Manila and not 2010s Manila that was hastily made to look like 1960s Manila. And then, as we roll out to a nightclub typical of its day, out comes… a Luhrmann-esque dance number?

I shit you not. Just when I was caught up with the postcard atmosphere, I got caught by surprise. For something that takes place in that decade, I’m not getting any Les Baxter cha cha here, but, in its place, a hip hop track worthy of 21st Century MTV!

And then there are more comedic, self-conscious moments. While I doubt the production team were inspired by these guys, the presence of Lester (especially HELP!) and Godard (especially A BAND OF OUTSIDERS) can’t be missed. That mini-concerto in the middle felt like something that could have been in [Mike] De Leon’s KAKABAKABA KA BA? or a Monty Python outing.

I shall not elaborate anymore on the scenes. But like I said, the picture is full of surprises.

Boy-Golden

I think E.R. and Company learned from their past experiences and, instead of taking their subject way too seriously for its own good, loosens the screws this time to surprisingly come up with a twisted revisionist joyride only “based” on a real life figure. What if BONNIE AND CLYDE was this camp. Then again, it seems closer in tie with BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, albeit funnier in my book. And despite something that was conceived as kitsch from the start, it knows when to stop smiling and get on to the crime drama angle of the story. So yes, the balance is just right.

Now to the people responsible for this gem. The Governor was just over-the-top great as the histrionic, Elvis-obsessed villain-hero. And who knew KC Concepcion–as the psychotic sweetheart with an urge to kill whenever she’s provoked–can make for an interesting action girl?

Carlo Mendoza’s spinoff-of-Deco photography is a real feast for the eyes. While shooting on actual film adds a richer dimension than it is with digital, making the mise en scene prettier to look at, it’s a given that the DP has a real gift for the visuals.

And while I’m not crazy over Chito Roño’s oeuvre (2004’s FENG SHUI comes to mind), the film director proved me wrong, and that he can deliver the cinematic goods whenever he can get the chance.

All in all, the picture was balls-out fun. I’ll admit, this was more enjoyable than the latest action movie Hollywood has to offer. It’s got a smorgasbord full of WTFs and excitement to keep the moviegoing palate satisfied. To quote Mr. Boy Golden himself: “Eef yor lookeeng por trrabol, yoob cam t’ da raht pleiz!”

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