You Got Me (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2007)
As it turns out, You Are the One (2006) made considerable money for Star Cinema. The team-up of director Cathy Garcia-Molina with her two newfound stars Sam Milby and Toni Gonzaga proved to be a genuine gold mine for the film studio that within a few months, a follow-up is released. With a stable of new talents (mostly from their reality TV show) who are waiting to be given projects, it seemed wise to come up with a film that will feature more characters and more derring-do's than their previous effort.
You Got Me has an essentially different mood, a lot more serious and more melodramatic. While You Are the One has a whimsical view of the Philippines' woes and ticks, You Got Me is much more straightforward and foregos the atmospheric charm that made the previous effort so vastly enjoyable.
Kevin (Milby) and Moe (Gonzaga) are cops. Their precinct seems to belong to an alternate universe wherein Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's promise of a strong republic was actually serious and not just for show. For one, Kevin is an IT and surveillance specialist while Moe plays a one-woman police force (regular cop/SWAT team-member/undercover agent). I'm aware that there are precincts with IT departments but that's really not a norm. The precinct is unnaturally clean with no sign of corruption, crab mentality, inutility, or other real problems of the Philippine police force. The prisoners are also treated with respect and kindness; enough for one of the prisoners, a petty criminal named Caloy (Zanjoe Marudo), to risk courting stern Moe.
With such a Utopian set-up, the only natural consequence is for the cops to worry about their affairs of the heart. A love triangle slowly boils (perhaps too slowly) in the midst of all the poorly directed action sequences and Milby's failed attempts to speak Tagalog without the distinct American twang (the writers do try to explain why Milby's character can't speak straight Tagalog by claiming he is from Cotobato where the dialect is Visayan, but that doesn't explain why his Tagalog accent is more Americanized than Visayan).
It is a hard stretch of imagination the film's writers, actors, and Garcia-Molina are convincing their audiences to make. It reminds me of Johnny To's romantic comedies (like My Left Eye Sees Ghosts (2002) or Turn Left Turn Right (2003); not really his forte but he makes them competently enough to be enjoyable) without the assured execution or the distinct charm. Here, everything feels so manufactured: the chemistry, the far fetched plot, the silly action set pieces, the clumsy portrayals. Having seen You Are the One, a film that is just surprisingly and genuinely cute and fresh, this is just so much of a letdown.