BuyBust (2018)

Posted in Reviews by - May 13, 2019
BuyBust (2018)

A striking, savage and poignant missive on the Filipino drug wars. Erik Matti confines his action-packed social commentary to the claustrophobic environs of a Manila slum, where over the course of one evening, a microcosm of governmental corruption, societal breakdown and widespread violence erupts when a drug bust goes wrong. Told through the moral gaze of a headstrong supercop called Nina (Curtis), her loyalty is tested as her troop of drug enforcement officers are slowly, and quite gruesomely, picked off by both the crooks and the community. The locals see the cops’ intrusion as an affront to their way of life, as well as a way of objectifying the youth who see a life of crime as the only way out of their desperate poverty. That doesn’t quite make the berserk scenes of all-out carnage any more palatable, as army-trained Nina turns into a one-woman death machine destroying everything in her wake. She kicks a tray of grenades at people while spraying automatic machine gun bullets; she electrocutes, stabs, kicks and charges her way through the unfortunate slum-dwellers, only stopping to resist blowing out the brains of a small child. (It’s at this point that you remember Anne Curtis’ role as a UNICEF ambassador). The effect is to show Nina’s desensitised downward spiral from idealistic agent of the law to feral barbarity, underlining the futility of the drug wars, in which human beings are being treated as pawns for political gain. It takes a while to warm-up, but once the film enters the slums, Matti works wonders to evoke a bleak sense of dystopian, urban sprawl; an ‘other’ world of torrential rain, flooded alleyways with vibrant neon light pools, hidden traps, and sounds of pop music and street life. It’s Blade Runner meets The Raid. Some of the film is truly ambitious, too, with a long one-take fight scene, great use of drone footage, and a regular timestamp to give the film’s events structure and context. The closest thing to levity is the indestructible MMA fighter Brandon Vera, who at one point somehow continues to fight despite resembling a blade-filled porcupine. But there’s really precious little daylight here, both figuratively and literally; its mostly an arduous, confronting slog of a film, which is exactly as it should be.

BuyBust is available to buy on Blu-ray and DVD via Well Go USA

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