Gandarrapiddo: The Revenger Squad

[ random movie time ]
I know I’m going to lose some cred… but I actually liked this movie.

Don’t enter the cinema with high expectations. Be realistic. Know that the moment you begin the movie, you will be confronted by improbable plot devices and obviously-rushed editing.

And with the freedom from expectations… comes enjoyment.

The Revenger Squad (2017) is the kind of story that doesn’t demand suspension of disbelief. You don’t need to believe in the soundness of the heroic plot, the awkward budding side romance, the family tensions. It only asks you to laugh and have a good time. I’m even kind of surprised they put such a big effort with the CGI (but not the prop and set design, which looks like a bunch of high schoolers did the construction).

The almost irrelevance of the plot was something I learned early on. The first wide shot of a superhero battleground was impressively digitally constructed. But it quickly dissolved to a badly-choreographed, only vaguely-justified fight filled with visual puns. Gandarra (Vice Ganda) fights Madman (RK Bagatsing), the evil father of the charismatic Chino (Daniel Padilla) and seducer of innocent Cassy (Pia Wurtzbach).

If I try to understand the mindset of the screenwriters, I would hazard that they had a few key scenes in mind, a truckload of essential quips and jokes, and they just built the whole story around those. It’s like badly-written self-insert fanfic.

Am I spoiling anything? I don’t think you’d care. Unlike Ang Panday, the movie had no ambitions of being an epic, and so internal coherency has less of a value than sheer entertainment.

The film’s script similarly suffers from Death By Exposition, and at the same time from inexplicable plot turns. How did Pia’s Cassy become an international model slash fashion designer slash secret supervillain with whatever powers? Why was her character in a random ass motorcycle race? Why did they decide to cure Gandarra’s amnesia only a couple of days before Chino’s secret-revealing power-activating 21st birthday?

To be fair, the movie tried to inject some soul. The Revenger Squad thematically focuses on the idea of “fake news”, how it breeds fear and danger, and how it creates rifts between people. The film even made a reference to Duterte’s iron fist approach.

But as I said: irrelevant. The plot is merely a backdrop to the comedy. And to the credit of the director, writers and leads, the humor was mostly well-timed and actually funny.

At some points I had to wonder if my humor was outdated or outmoded, but by the middle of the movie I felt so lighthearted that I was smiling even at the jokes that fell flat or dragged too long. Even the really bad plot points and dialogue just made me smile in what was probably fond resignation.

What I can definitely say is that even if I personally didn’t find a joke funny, at least someone in the audience did, because people in SM BF laugh really really loudly. You can tell.

Most of the humor is Vice Ganda’s brand of contextual, self-referring humor. You need perhaps a passing familiarity with her personal life and her other films, e.g. Pvt Benjamin, as well as with other properties, e.g. La Luna Sangre, to understand the joke. The film even featured a hilarious spoof of some iconic scenes from Daniel Padilla’s romantic movies.

The rest of the humor was slapstick and violent —isn’t this funny, Vice Ganda getting beat up through some outlandish set-up, haha. And the movie was generously littered with fast witty dialogue and witty quips. To be fair to all the leads, they were able to deliver on the jokes (hello to Daniel Padilla’s shookt and WTF faces).

If I am sliding down my seat laughing, can I still call this film a bad one? Despite what serious critics say, this movie accomplished what it set out to do: make people laugh, and earn money.

I agree that popular cinema can aspire to be better, but I would say we can aspire to offer some simpler things too. Like a two-hour stand-up comedy skit, but in film form. As Gandarra says in a moment of reflective self-awareness, “mahalaga yan, yung tawa… love and laughter.”

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