Kinatay (2009) movie review

Directed by: Brillante Mendoza

Written by: Armando Lao

Cast: Coco Martin, Maria Isabel Lopez, and Julio Diaz

Runtime: 105 min.

Rated: Not Rated

Country: Philippines

Aka: Butchered, The Execution of P

Sub-genre: Psychological

Kinatay is a simple tale with a complex moral dilemma at its core. Peping, a young fresh-faced police academy trainee, is a newlywed and new father. Money is tight, so when a simple job offer from a friend for one night’s work is dangled in front of him the lure of easy money is impossible to resist. It’s not until the true dark nature of the job reveals itself in shocking fashion late into the night that Peping realizes he may have traded his very soul for a mere two grand.

Brillante Mendoza does a good job of contrasting Peping’s van ride through the hustle and bustle of daytime city life with his joyous family against the night ride in a different van through the seamier parts of the city with a gang of grim, murderous thugs. Their mission is to kidnap a stripper named Madonna who owes their boss, a corrupt police captain, money then take her to a cottage on the outskirts of the city where she will be dealt with severely. Intimidation turns to brutality, rape, murder, and then dismemberment. Mendezo’s claustrophobic visual composition thrusts the viewer into Peping’s increasingly chaotic and panicked mind space. Coco Martin does an excellent job of conveying the inner tumult of his character’s moral terror through choked facial expressions and shifty eyed sweaty nervousness. His horrified reaction to real murder is a stark mirror image opposite to his almost jovial handling of the subject during his classroom homicide police procedure training. While the bulk of the film is a psychological journey into Conrad’s jungle so to speak the camera does not avert its gaze when it comes to the realistic scene of Madonna’s graphic and bloody limbic separation from the rest of her formerly heavenly body.

The disturbing truth of Kinatay is the film is based on actual events that have occurred in the Philippines in recent times. Not an isolated event, but multiple murders in which the body parts were dispersed throughout various sections of a city and its neighboring countryside. A bold message posted by organized crime to the rest of the terrified populace that if you become involved and get in too deep the only way out will be through a virtual meat grinder of punishment. Thus is the real horror explored in Brillante Mendoza’s powerful narrative of murder and innocence lost known as Kinatay.

SJ

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