Review: 'Boy Golden' is campy and violent, but earnest

Posted at 12/27/13 10:56 AM

When I first saw the poster of "Boy Golden" with lead actor Jeorge ER Ejercito sporting that ridiculously fake-looking mustache and beard, it actually discouraged me from watching this. But when I saw that this was directed by Chito S. Rono (whose last work "Badil" was excellent), I decided to give it a chance. This is the first film I watched for this year's Metro Manila Film Festival.

"Boy Golden" is the story of a real-life gangster from the 1960s named Arturo Porcuna. Porcuna, alias Anino, was the head of the notorious Bahala Na Gang. After his release from jail, now using the monicker Boy Golden, he is hot on the trail of the rival gang leader Tony Razon (John Estrada) who was responsible for killing his family and the rape/murder of his sister Baby. With his wealthy benefactor Atty. Dante Sagalongos (Eddie Garcia) and a feisty sexy dancer in distress Marla De Guzman (KC Concepcion) behind him, Boy Golden plots and executes his revenge on Razon, but not without his own losses.

As with his previous MMFF entries as Asiong Salonga and as Emilio Aguinaldo, the problem with the films of Gov. Jeorge Ejercito is himself. He does not really project well as an action star because of his benign visage and un-athletic physique. He also has a rather unrealistic style of acting which tends to go over- the-top. Director Rono was somehow able to down the camp in his acting. Ejercito is lucky that the over-all quality of this film and how technically meticulous it was somehow makes up for his deficiencies as lead star.

Again as before, the veteran supporting cast does more memorable work than the lead.

Eddie Garcia has that easy-going style that made him a popular character actor all these years. He had to endure a particularly harrowing torture scene, surely very difficult for someone of his advanced age. John Estrada we know can play a good villain as from his TV work, and he projects that same sinister charisma here. He has limited screen time though.

Gloria Sevilla (as the gun-toting Aling Puring), Baron Geisler (as the "Twilight"-like Datu Putla), Leo Martinez (as stereotypical Chinaman Mr. Ho), Roi Vinzons (as reckless Alias Tekla) and Dick Israel (as doomed but dignified Boy Bungal) all have their moments of note, as well as hammy melodrama, as members of Razon's gang. .

Special mention has to go to Ms. KC Concepcion for bravely tackling her very daring role as Marla D. It was very daring not only superficially (she had to wear tight, cleavage-baring costumes the whole time), but also physically (she had many intense fight sequences) and emotionally (she actually had to convince us she falls in love with Boy Golden). She is really a striking gorgeous presence here, and commands attention in all the scenes she was in. She may be a contender for Best Actress for this festival.

I have to commend the production designer who really took pains to recreate the 1960s in the houses, the streets, the cars, the costumes and make-up. These sets and little details all brought us back in time. The blood effects did not look very real though. The cinematography was clean, with inventive camera angles. The action sequences were well-executed, even with parkour sequences on rooftops, but these tended to be too long.

The story-telling felt over-stretched though to achieve an "epic" feel, when it could have been more compact. There were parts towards the end that felt bloated and preachy. Less could have been more. I did appreciate the awkward attempts at kitschy humor (like the dancing to Elvis songs among others) to break the film's violent core. That said though, I felt the classification of R-13 was too generous. Given the film's depiction of criminal gang activity with all the attendant blood, gore and violence. I thought an R-16 was more appropriate.

"Boy Golden" is generally well-made gangster movie, but it is not without its flaws. It may be campy and violent, but it was certainly an earnest effort by its cast and crew. 6/10.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."