Director King Palisoc‘s TANDEM (2015) does not offer anything new. As a matter of fact, it is predictable, formulaic, and very much staple. But its greatness lies on its telling and form. Palisoc’s direction comes with considerable precision and his scenes offer an abundance of hidden meanings that exemplify, both, his characters and his plot. His camera runs with a speeding preciseness and his narrative – despite the familiarity – presents a compelling 82-minute ride.
The traffic-laden streets of Metro Manila introduces two brothers: Roman and Rex, who use the chaos of the metropolis for their shady operations. As tandem robbers on a motorbike, they roam familiar streets and take whatever they deem necessary. As their crimes continue, it gets deeper, shadier and grimmer, until something goes wrong. Now that Roman and Rex are on the run, they will have to test each other’s loyalty as they face an ultimate end.
Pasiloc brandishes his film through his depth and compositions. In TANDEM, he gives more than just the action and reactions. His scenes imbed deeper meaning through dimensional symbols and visuals that depict the continuing tragedies of his characters. Take for example the interior scene of Roman and Rex in the kitchen. As Roman’s wife prepares dinner, Pasiloc carefully shoots from outside, making the kitchen’s screendoor the foreground. It continues on for a few minutes and manages to establish an imprisoned mindset, not just among the characters, but among the audiences as well. In one exterior scene on a dilapidating bridge, one can’t help but notice how Pasiloc intentionally shoots two characters behind the bridge’s railings, also subtly establishing the chained and captive psyche of his two main characters.
Pong Ignacio‘s cinematography captures the best of what our contemporary action film can offer. It its gray and filth, Ignacio manages to offer the cold and hard exterior without dismissing comfort and tranquility. Noteworthy are his scenes when Roman sings a soothing lullaby to his wife after a fight. Here, Ignacio remains faithful to his themes but offers something quite as visually calming as the lullaby itself.
Nico Antonio plays the unconventional criminal Roman. He is the older brother to Rex, as well a promising father figure. Antonio is at his best in his silent scenes, especially in his introspections. He knows that their occupation will never last. In Roman, we see the critical criminal, the contentious villain. JM de Guzman is at his best as the ferocious Rex. Seeing de Guzman here is a treat as he brings to the screen another face to his angelic form in film and television. In TANDEM, he offers a credible crook-in-the-making, however, still passionate, loving and tied. I bet he’ll vie for a best actor award here.
Though TANDEM is as staple as any other pickpocket or crime movie we’ve seen, it is still one of the best I’ve seen this year. See, what makes this a decent entry for this year’s MMFF NEW WAVE is how its director manages to re-create a staple form through deeper compositions and greater meanings. Even if TANDEM tells a run-of-the-mill-criminal-with-a-heart story, Palisoc compels his audiences with a careful narrative, and gripping performances; thus making it ultimately a film worth watching.
4 STARS OUT OF 5
Here’s TANDEM’s Screening Schedule for this Year’s MMFF New Wave Run