ERICH Gonzales as Kray, who will do anything to survive the night from a syndicate out to kill her and her friends in We Will Not Die Tonight.

Our heroines are gorgeous ladies who are literal killing machines. They are capable of kicking asses, breaking necks and killing men twice their sizes with guns, shears and bladed weapons.

It’s exciting times for Philippine cinema. On 3 August, BuyBust premiered in local cinemas.

It has been receiving much love and buzz from those who have seen it during its premiere at the New York Film Festival last July, and it was no different when it opened in local theaters during the regular screenings. Rave reviews outweighed the rants for the Anne Curtis-starrer.

Today, another similarly themed movie is premiering. We Will Not Die Tonight is part of the ongoing Pista Ng Pelikulang Pilipino. The festival, helmed by the Film Development Council of the Philippines, returns for its second edition with eight, all-new entries showing in cinemas nationwide starting today until 21 August.

What’s interesting to note between these two movies is that they are above-norm among most Filipino films ever produced.

First, they are top-billed by women: Curtis in BuyBust and Erich Gonzales in We Will Not Die Tonight. Second, these are action-suspense movies with events unfolding overnight where the heroine tries to survive against all odds. This leads to the third point. These films can be loosely categorized as “survival” movies. No, not the Tom Hank’s Castaway type, though. They are more like The Purge movie series.

Our heroines are gorgeous ladies who are literal killing machines. They are capable of kicking asses, breaking necks and killing men twice their sizes with guns, shears and bladed weapons.

BuyBust has narcotics agent Nina Manigan, who has to find her way out of a slum full of bloodthirsty residents, crooked cops and criminals. We Will Not Die Tonight has Kray, a down-on-her-luck stuntwoman, who accepts a job that turns out to be a stint with a syndicate involved in abducting children and selling their organs to the black market.

Their ordeal runs the whole night and instead of being the damsels-in-distress, as most Filipino action movies portrayed in the past, they are in-charge of their own survival. There was no man shielding or fighting for them. These movies are literally and figuratively dark, replete with well-choreographed fight scenes.

Erik Matti and Richard Somes, writers and directors of BuyBust and We Will Not Die Tonight, respectively, did not even attempt to tone down the violence. Save for the first 20 minutes or so, the events that ensue in these movies are pure bloodbath. These are not for the squeamish and weak of heart and stomach.

This is where the point of contention takes place. It’s good to finally have a female protagonist as the central figure in an action movie. These movies, admittedly sans the carnage, put most past male-centric Pinoy action flicks to shame by virtue of the points mentioned above.

It is, however, disturbing to witness how viewers have become desensitized on the acts of violence unfolding before their eyes. The Daily Tribune’s contributor Michael Kho Lim commented in his review of BuyBust how people clapped every time Manigan kills. This writer had the same experience during the premiere night of We Will Not Die Tonight.

The applauses and cheers for Kray as she stabs and renders lifeless her opponents were far too disturbing. Even though it was just a movie, it was still surreal to hear people cheering for such gruesome acts.

It makes one wonder then, how have we become unfeeling? Is cinema actually mirroring our reality?
BuyBust and We Will Not Die Tonight are generally good films. It’s about time that we have more action flicks with women as lead stars. It doesn’t matter if the future ones are bordering on slasher, gore or anything of the like. That’s why the ratings system for movies are in place, as a way to guarantee that movies are rated accordingly.

It was just the unexpected, seemingly communal approval of violence that is jarring and disturbing that spoiled the fun.

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