THE JANITOR, Filipino indie film now showing, is a competent and well-edited piece of film-making.
First of all, the storyline is coherent and seamless enough without the loose ends that some indie films leave hanging to the puzzlement of viewers.
The setting is real, slice of life lower middleclass somewhere south of Manila.
Characterization is genuine, believable and well done.
Music is particularly good, the dialogue is a dash off vernacular, street smart and hits the spot of what is being narrated. None of that maudlin stuff that self-pitiful characters mouth which in fact is not real, because there is no time for melodrama. The action is fast and furious.
In general, editing is above average except for the long drawn-out torture scenes to make a crime suspect name names. I would think that if he were to sing out the names of his criminal comrades, he would do it all at once and not one by one to invite another torture session. It just doesn’t make sense that someone so badly treated, enough to succumb to giving out information to stop the pain, would do it by installment of added torture.
The themes in this film are interesting and topical – domestic violence, human rights violations, criminals in police uniforms and the whole police organization coming up short, if not venal and murderous. Then there is the media frenzy as media personnel feed off the sensational crime of wholesale murder in a bank robbery, in effect inciting a reaction that is expedient but false.
The Janitor is so topical and up-to-date, it practically mirrors the headlines that we are reading today and elaborates on the stories that make them.
Meanwhile, it subtly questions so-called Filipino virtues that followed in the extreme turn to commissions and omissions that are nothing less than major sins.
Loyalty is brought to the fore. Up to what point must loyalty be a positive force? Up to the commission of a crime? Up to covering up a crime? When is respect for parents and elders already counterproductive to justice, fairness and common sense? Why are competent lawmen also competent lawbreakers?
And as the piece de resistance, what is our Philippine National Police image and what is its reality? Here is where the film slyly and validly brings up their true-to-life crimes i.e. the roulette wheel of various toruture forms found in Laguna, the rubout in Atimonan, the bank robberies staged by serving, AWOL or retired policeman. Just the reality we live with today.
This film zeroes in on all these themes and comes up intelligently deconstructing them from their appearance to their reality.
The hero is found wanting. He is a well-meaning, respectful, obedient, brave man exploited by his superiors, bullied by his father and finally unable to save his wife and child as he follows orders beyond the pale of the law.
The scenes are engrossing and suspenseful. The action well-paced and expert and the throwaway lines as real as real life.
It is an action film but I dissent from its overdone gore, too many violent on-scene deaths.
Overdone, overstated, over the top. This is my one serious objection. The more minor one is to question the title. Who is The Janitor? Could it be because the hero in a brief scene is disguised as a maintenance man in a condominium building, or is it because he disposes of people? Not clear.
Otherwise, it is worth the time seeing to believe that Filipino films are getting there.