Filipino Thriller Graceland Is Visually Arresting

Graceland director Ron Morales

It's a trickier process than it might seem, creating a sympathetic character whose world is imploding, mapping his internal anguish while illustrating all he's up against. Striking the right balance between interior and exterior can mean the difference between compelling drama and accidental melodrama. Writer-director Ron Morales just misses equilibrium in the visually arresting Filipino thriller Graceland. When saintly chauffeur Marlon Villar (Arnold Reyes) — devoted father, husband to a deathly ill wife — is ensnared in the bungled kidnapping of the daughter of Manuel Chango (Menggie Cobarubbias) the pedophilic politician for whom he works, he finds himself in a race to save his own daughter even as his credibility is called into question. Good and evil are broadly sketched here, and the plot bends along biblical lines as the Villar and Chango families become mired in grim actions and repercussions. (The fate of Chango's daughter is the script's heavy-handed retribution for his skeevy predilections.) Morales isn't helped any by lead actor Reyes who — as the increasingly desperate father — pulls his hair, quivers his lips, and emotes with all the nuance of a silent-screen actor on a bender.

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