Baliw (Redd Ochoa, 2007)
English Title: Crazy
My biggest gripe with Redd Ochoa's Baliw (Crazy) is not that it's poorly made, but simply because it doesn't have a story worth telling; or more accurately, the film that it ambitioned itself to be is different from the one that was shown onscreen. In a way, it feels like the film is suffering from its own schizophrenia --- when it advertises itself as a story about second chances and redemption, what it really is is a confused little film about the cruelties of life, period; certainly nothing about redemption except disattached conversations that seemingly have nothing to do with where the story is going.
As mentioned, the film isn't poorly made. With a budget that is merely a fraction of the amount of money used to feed the cast and crew of a big budgeted pirates film, producer-writer-director Redd Ochoa was forced to rely on his own raw talent, and the talent that was provided to him. The film is actually quite well-edited. The cinematography is apt and aware of the visual disadvantages of the digital medium thus preventing the usual errors that accompany low-budget Filipino filmmaking.
There were some instances wherein Ochoa was able to maximize his resources and deliver sequences that show remarkable mastery of the film language, like the opening sequence which begins with a vivid portrayal of the usual hustle and bustle of ghetto Manila before turning into a high-octane foot chase between masked criminal elements and police officers. It ends quite violently, with the two cops violently murdered by the robbers inside an abandoned warehouse. At that instance, the film showed great promise --- there's an irreprehensible viciousness that is shown; can there be redemption for someone that animalistic, that cruel?
Then the film suddenly halted; busying itself by telling the story of a perfect family who crosses path with the titular psychopath (Ryan Eigenmann, who reprises the role he played in Peque Gallaga's Gangland (1998)). It talks about foundlings and how the church gives them second chances by taking them in and providing for them shelter and love. It also talks about moral choices in life; subjects, by themselves, are signals for a story of redemption.
And indeed, the film is a story of redemption, but not a very powerful one. Instead of focusing on the interesting character, the murderous psychopath, it concentrates on the lone survivor (Joshua Deocareza) of a massacre, who by a twist of fate, crosses path again with the psychopath. Instead of treating the psychopath as a human character, it is treated as a mere case study --- a cinematic example how the theory of 'nature and nurture' can bring about the worst in people.
Ochoa spends so much time in detailing things that aren't necessarily connected with the film's outcome --- did I really need to know why the psychopath turned up that way when it's not really his redemption story but another's; did I really have to be morally bothered by second chances and life choices when the film will end with nothing of absolute pertinence resolved. In the end, I was unaffected, annoyed, and severely shortchanged.