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'Madilim Ang Gabi' Is A Slow-Burner That Feels Rushed

Gina Alajar carried the weight of this movie on her shoulders
by Emmanuel Calingacion | Aug 20, 2018
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Gina Alajar and Phillip Salvador play Sara and Lando in Adolfo Alix, Jr.'s Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino entry, Madilim Ang Gabi, the husband and wife tandem who are loyal agents for local crime boss Kidlat. Their responsibilities require them to carry out dirty deeds in Tondo, many of which are related to drugs. But when the newly elected president begins to put addicts, runners, and pushers in his crosshairs, they decide to break their ties with the syndicate and try to live normal and honest lives. But, as other movies would suggest, you don’t get to leave the criminal underworld that easy. So one day, their son Alan, played by Felix Roco, suddenly goes missing. The two scour the slums and interact with the various personalities of a dangerous Manila in search of him.

Gina Alajar practically carried the film—she was in front of the camera 95% of the time in this slow burner. She plays Sara like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, appearing like a victim of her circumstances, but is actually a prominent bad bitch of Tondo. At first, she will make you care about her search for her son, but then—spoiler alert—she goes out and kills Rosanna Roces for her boss.

Phillip Salvador’s Lando is her caring husband, a man who clearly plays second fiddle to his wife as the head of the household. This is Phillip Salvador at his most sensitive—his emotional baggage was on full display for the audience to witness.

Writer-director Adolfo Alix, Jr. attempts to reproduce a film close to Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’Rosa here, but he didn’t pack enough of the emotional pull of its predecessor. Granted, there was drama. There was suspense. There was violence. But none of those reached their peaks to evoke a sense of dread and anxiety. Just as the movie was raising the stakes, it gave its climax away way too early and the film just died down from there.

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What could’ve saved it was the number of unexpected cameos from big names in the industry: Rosanna Roces, Zanjoe Marudo, Angel Aquino, Sid Lucero, Iza Calzado, and Cherie Pie Picache. There was also Jason Abalos, Angelina Kanapi, Elizabeth Oropesa, Alessandra de Rossi, Anita Linda, Perla Bautista, Bembol Roco, Julio Diaz, Jesse Mendoza, Allan Paule, Angeli Bayani, Kenken Nuyad, Erlinda Villalobos, Flora Gasser, and Cris Villonco. You have to watch the film to see who Cherie Gil and Laurice Guillen surprisingly play.

But despite this movie being packed with star power, the sequences didn’t feel neatly tied for the developing plot. These actors appear at random and for no real reason. Sara, with or without Lando by her side, meets one person after the other as she wanders around looking for Alan. Although, we have to admit, it was pretty fun and distracting to spot and identify these familiar faces when they popped up as relatives, neighbors, friends, drug pushers, goons, policemen, victims, and reporters.

Two people from the movie that weren't officially cast but appear more than any other character aside from Sara and Lando, are President Duterte and Bongbong Marcos. Marcos appears in various shots in the form of his posters back when he ran for Vice President. Duterte doesn’t physically show up, but his voice serves as the official soundtrack of the movie, repeating his “I will kill you” speeches on the radio.

What it lacked in plot, the movie made up for in imagery and well-balanced cinematography. It depicts a dreary urban jungle filled with two types of animals, the predator and the prey. And the only thing these two creatures have in common is that they all voted for the current president, whether they knew they were going to kill or be killed.

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