'Angela Markado' Review: Hack job

Carlo J. Caparas’ Angela Markado is a clear attempt by the comics writer-turned-filmmaker to reclaim the spotlight as the creative force behind the title from Lino Brocka, whose 1980 grim take on Caparas’ story persists as a towering example of the director’s ability to mix socially realist melodrama with a stereotypical tale of rape and revenge.

The story mostly remains the same. Angela (Andi Eigenmann) has an ailing mother and is forced to support her family by working as a waitress in a seedy club. There, she is harassed by a group of bullies (Epy Quizon, Polo Ravales, Felix Roco, and C.J. Caparas), led by their particularly sadistic boss (Paolo Contis). She is raped by the 5 men, which forces her to kill each and every one of them in revenge to all the misfortune that has happened to her and her family.

 

Pales in comparison

Sadly, Caparas’ film not only pales in comparison to Brocka’s, it is a troubled and troubling film on its own. It is a prime example of a work that is crafted out of confusion, lumbering from one scene to the next with just its blatant but dully-executed vulgarity as fuel.

Caparas removes the story from the socially realist confines that made the original adaptation work despite the narrative’s lack of novelty. In its place are various intolerable stylistic excesses that only serve to enunciate what appears to be Caparas’ fetishistic obsession over violence. The film is overflowing with needless visual gimmicks that draw attention to the mock depravity rather than the emotions, resulting in a film that only purports to be vicious but never really gets into the core of the viciousness it attempts to depict.

The film is edited haphazardly, with flashbacks appearing on top of flashbacks without any hint of rhyme or reason except perhaps to rescue the final product from an evident lack of dramatic tension. Caparas’ demand for his viewers to stitch together what seem to be randomly sequenced scenes however is not rewarded with intelligence. The film is just as crudely crafted as its moral inclinations are primitive.

Potentially subversive

In fact, Angela Markado has the potential to be a subversive film, had Caparas retained his appeal with the masses. The film has a populist vibe. Its protagonists, from Angela to the poor workers who are helping her in her quest for retribution, are cleverly placed in the same situation of being treated as victims, all who have a right to be angry, all capable of fighting back.

Unfortunately, Caparas’ appropriation of his politics into his art is painfully elementary. The film and all the events that are designed to drum up fury and fervor are hopelessly inert. They never graduate from being frustrating derivatives, scenes that have been done and redone with better skill and immediacy than Caparas’ despicable mess.

Screengrab from YouTube/Max Green

With its boorish yet unrelenting treatment of violence and vengeance, coupled with the intriguing and suspicious utility of real personalities such as Public Attorney’s Office head Persida V. Rueda-Acosta to bridge its cruel fantasies with reality, the film presents a compromising and dangerous suggestion of championing the barbaric law of retaliation, if coupled with bewildering legalese. 

Stunted filmmaking

Screengrab from YouTube/Max Green

Angela Markado bluntly reveals Caparas as a filmmaker who refuses to grow up.

By voluntarily pitting himself against Brocka, he exposes all his weaknesses as an artist, the most glaring of which is the inability to synchronize his artistic purpose and skill. His Angela Markado is vehemently shallow, a piece of pulp that refuses to be both profound and entertaining. – Rappler.com