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11.01.2009

TENDER PREY

Kinatay (The Execution of P)
Directed by Brillante Ma. Mendoza
Written by Armando Lao














The heart of darkness Kinatay plumbs is a black hole we know, but couch in the cozy swaddle of urban legend, of things that happen to other people. Because confronting them without that measure of remove, without that deniability at arms' length, puts us too far out in harm’s way for comfort,makes us fair game.

But nearly everybody has a third person rogue cop story, or knows somebody who knows somebody who does, of men with guns and abductions in the night, of death squads and body parts in sackcloth, of devilish deeds done dirt cheap. I tend to cold sweat on impulse at the sight of checkpoints myself. I'm overreacting,sure, but none of that anxiety is mere caprice. Kinatay has night-thoughts to rummage through,alright. Enough verite to tap. Buttons to push.

But not agendas. Kinatay spews from firsthand moral outrage - - -Mendoza's, Lao's - - -but doesn't politicize nor exoticize nor even outrightly address it. It's apolitical. And amoral. And in a way that does little but thicken its soup of dread 'til we're choking on it, gasping for air. It's a closed-in half-lit morally blank world Coco Martin's rookie cop - - -and us along with him - - -is marooned in without coordinates,a world of permanent midnight and spatial displacement where malevolence is the hunch of a lieutenant's back and Hell, a nondescript spare room turned makeshift abbatoir.

And it's tone is of a chilling passivity that neither gets as nosy nor as horny as tortureporn ,which it sort of is, albeit wth the volume turned way way down, a real time abstraction if you will, a horror movie bereft not only of gory sensation - - -the controversial raping and torturing and beating and slaying and dismembering is a dimly-lit battery of master shots verging on unseeable- - - but also of ways out - - -an almost unbearable sequence during a detour to buy balut on a beer run and an even more unbearable one near the end when a cab gets a flat and the bravura van ride that knots coils in my gut still and that last shot and the harrowing pointlessness of it all. It's deadened and deadening.

The word "salvage" may have re-entered the vernacular freighted with an alarming new meaning but it's also freighted with an alarming currency that wears off the scald over time. Salvage victims are mostly nobodies anyway,other people. And who cares what perversities are visited on a haggard old whore ,moreso one who's dim enough to think she can dupe rogue cops of their drug loot? Repulsed. Desensitized. These are the emotional polarities of salvage. And these,too,are the emotional polarities of Kinatay. It can either burrow under your skin and breed cultures of unease. Or it can numb you into feeling nothing. Both, of course, is the desired effect.