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Movie review: A lack of vision in ‘10,000 Hours’

January 1, 2014 1:32pm
In “10,000 Hours,” Robin Padilla portrays a senator who goes on the lam. Echoing news headlines, the movie cherry-picks elements from the issues, but never really engages any of them on the level of social commentary. The pork barrel, kidnap for ransom gangs, and respect for the rule of law are all brought into the film, but it’s mostly about evading law enforcement agents. 
 
And funny enough, pretty much all the law enforcement agents in the film are dumb. Come to think of it, pretty much all the characters in this film are bereft of any great intellectual prowess. Or if they have it, they sure don’t use it at all. 
 
The movie opens with a flashback that features a lot of expository dialogue talking about the fallout from the killing of a kidnap-for-ransom gang and the exposing of a politician as its mastermind. We get a sloppy action sequence (and it’s such a shame in this film that almost all the action sequences are so badly choreographed and shot, especially because Padilla can be one hell of a fighter), and then we jump to the narrative present. 
 
In the present, Padilla is shown preparing a privilege speech where he will expose the corruption being committed by the president. To prevent him from delivering the speech, evidence is fabricated to implicate him in something to do with that kidnap case. He goes on the run. 
 
The problem is that this run isn’t very exciting, and it isn’t framed in such a way that makes the film propulsive. The film’s title sets a time frame, but the film doesn’t use it as a ticking clock; it uses it as a mere marker for things. We take long jumps through time, and each jump’s length and reason for existing aren’t always clear. In fact there are a lot of shots that could have been edited out. Oh man, could this film have used some editing.
 
This lack of editing leads to a problematic pacing. This is a film about a fugitive, someone who is evading authorities and trying to help expose the truth. But it’s never established what steps he can take to move him closer to his goals. He, like the audience, is left meandering and waiting around for things to happen. Meanwhile the family in the Philippines gets whiny about how their father is too principled and doesn’t care for them. 
 
The largest problem of the film is a lack of vision. While the film benefits from having a lot of money and good equipment and it generally looks good, it is still limited in its imagination. The pacing, the shots, and the development of the story all feel like they could be cut up and used as scenes for episodes of a telenovela. It doesn’t elevate itself into a great film. 
 
It doesn’t help that it’s hampered by so much other stuff. The script suffers from either too much exposition, or slack dialogue that doesn’t go anywhere or gets repetitive. There are some fine performances from Padilla, Michael de Mesa, and Pen Medina, but then some of the other performances are cringe-worthy. The music is overbearing and sometimes obtrusive. 
 
This film needed to be propulsive. It’s an action movie. It’s about someone who is a fugitive, so we should have gotten some cat and mouse. But that’s not how it played out. I kept thinking about how it needed some kind of MacGuffin that would help make the film more propulsive. The movie does wind up introducing one, but much too late in the film for it to be the driving force it should have been. 
 
Beyond that late introduction, there is a facepalm-worthy revelation toward the end that attempts a twist and an oh-so-that’s-why reaction, but really falls flat on the level of logic. Then again, if you are willing to stretch the bounds of logic (in the way that our political system and law enforcement do) then I suppose this film could make a lot of sense. I still can’t get over how little intelligence is shown here across the board. No wonder they couldn’t catch the guy, everyone chasing him is either incompetent or lazy. It’s not like he makes much of an effort apart from wearing hoodies or tilting whatever he’s wearing on his head to cover his face a little more.
 
I want to think that it’s a happy thing that films in the Metro Manila Film Festival are attempting to engage contemporary issues. But the problem is that the engagement is limited to the level of melodrama and the real issues and concerns aren’t explored. Further, while the production values are solid, the craft still leaves a lot wanting. I needed this film to make me hold my breath. And instead I was mostly letting out exasperated sighs or chuckles. 
 
Then again, it won best picture, so what do I know, right? —KG/HS, GMA News
 
The views expressed in this review are the author's own.
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