‘Tokhang’ goes Hollywood

By: Rina Jimenez-David October 03,2017 - 10:35 PM


Who would have thought that “tokhang,” albeit in a sanitized, glossy depiction typical of Hollywood, would suddenly show up in a spy flick that aspires to comedy but ends up in lameness?

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” opens with the destruction of the headquarters of a supersecret British intelligence agency and the killing of almost all its “knights.” This forces the remaining agent, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), known as Galahad, a name he inherited from his late (or so he thinks) mentor (Colin Firth), with the agency’s resident “techie” Merlin (Mark Strong) to travel to the United States to seek the help of their American counterparts, known as the “Statesmen.”

On paper, this may have looked like a vastly entertaining, novel concept, pitting the dapper dandies of London against the brawling bucks of Kentucky. But film critic David Edelstein sums up the film as a “bloated, campy, thoroughly stupid sequel” to the 2014 original.

That out of the way, let me tell you where “tokhang” comes in. The villain behind the destruction of Kingsman is the world’s biggest drug dealer, Poppy (Julianne Moore), who maintains a hideout in the jungles of Cambodia made in the image of 1950s Middle America. Poppy’s plot centers on blackmailing the world’s governments: lacing her drug supply with a deadly chemical that induces catatonia and then death, and withholding the antidote until she receives the money. The US president at first pretends to play along with Poppy’s plan but is secretly relishing what he calls “the final solution” to the drugs menace: the killing of all drug addicts. He orders the victims to be imprisoned en masse in cages in gigantic stadiums while doing nothing against Poppy’s organization.

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” aspires to the comedic (and bloody) heights of its predecessor. But despite a sterling cast, led by the returning Firth and such A-list actors as Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, the underrated but effective Pedro Pascal, and the vastly underused Halle Berry, all the mayhem and murder result in nothing but confusion and incoherence.

Then there’s Elton John, who plays himself, and is thus appropriately costumed in feathers and sequins and bejeweled glasses.

But because it shows us the outlandish extremes of what a leader bent on unleashing a “war on drugs” can accomplish, thank “Kingsman” for giving DU30’s centerpiece of governance the proper profane treatment.

* * *

Some weeks back, I was surfing the cable TV channels when I chanced upon “Before We Go” on HBO. Released in 2014, this is an “indie” movie directed by Chris Evans (otherwise known as Captain America) and starring him and Alice Eve, who meet quite by accident at New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

A movie that focuses narrowly on two individuals at a crossroads in their lives has been done before. In fact, I suspect “Before We Go” was influenced heavily by, and aspired to be an uninvited guest to, what some have called the “Before” trilogy: the movies “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight,” starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. But the latest “Before” movie lacked the light, magic touch of director Richard Linklater.

And now here comes a local movie aspiring for the same artistic arc of the “Before” movies, albeit with a paranormal twist.

Piolo Pascual and Toni Gonzaga team up again in “Last Night,” about two characters introduced to us as aspiring suicides who foil each other’s attempt to jump off Jones Bridge. The rest of the movie follows the duo wandering the Ermita-Malate-Intramuros area, tying up loose ends and plotting their joint suicide.

Despite the dark subject matter, and as shot gorgeously by Bb. Joyce Bernal, who paints the inner core of Manila in a glossy, magical light, the film comes off as a lightweight rom-com.

Bela Padilla’s script manages the delicate balance between romance and the macabre, but its ending feels rather forced, and the resolution too neat. She may have been trying to lift the veil of depression that surrounds suicide, but the film, sadly, ends up trivializing and romanticizing an issue that deserves a more serious, sober look.

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