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PEP REVIEW: 'Manila Kingpin: The Untold Story of Asiong Salonga'

December 29, 2011 3:17pm
Manila Kingpin: The Untold Story of Asiong Salonga (aka The Asiong Salonga Story) is the fourth movie to dramatize the life and times of Tondo’s notorious gang leader who ruled from the late 1940s until his untimely death in 1951, at age 27.

Just like the first version, which was released in 1961 starring former President Joseph Estrada (the second, with Rudy Fernandez, in 1977 and the third, with George Estregan Jr., in 1990), the current one is filmed in black and white purportedly to capture the look and mood of Asiong’s era.

Director Tikoy Aguiluz, screenwriters Roy Iglesias and Rey Ventura, cinematographer Carlo Mendoza and production designer Fritz Silorio, with the cast led by titular star Jeorge Estregan (the other screen name of Laguna Gov. ER Ejercito), succeed for the most part in taking the audience back to that part of Tondo’s past. (Aguiluz has asked for his name to be taken out of the movie’s credits.)

It’s especially refreshing to know that during that time people, including underworld types like Asiong, stuck to their political affiliations and ideals.

But there are also moments and details in certain scenes (such as those shot outdoors where the screen turns green because of the grassy background and inside Asiong’s prison cell where his orange uniform appears like a stain on the screen) that interrupt the nostalgia trip.

Thankfully, the movie gives equal importance to timeless family values and the eternal theme crime does not pay.

While Asiong’s brother Domeng (played remarkably by Philip Salvador) exercises his sworn duty as a policeman, for instance, he remains responsible for and protective of Asiong.

And when Asiong finally meets his bloody end, his assailant also falls victim to brutal violence.

Aside from Salvador, other secondary leads like Baron Geisler (as Asiong’s vengeful former henchman Erning), John Regala and Ronnie Lazaro (as two of Asiong’s rival gang lords) also shine in the movie.

Ditto for the rest of Asiong’s followers played by Dennis Padilla, Ping Medina, Yul Servo, Ketchup Eusebio and Amay Bisaya who made the most of their extensive screen time but with limited dialogue.

Robert Arevalo and Perla Bautista (as Asiong’s parents) also make their presence felt though their talents are largely underutilized. -- Jocelyn Valle, PEP
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