Kinatay (Butchered), a film by Brilliante Mendoza, somehow didn’t meet my expectations after watching it. Due to some praises I’ve heard about the film, I expected it to be different in the ending. Maybe because I’m used to watch movie award recipients that show the triumph of good in the end, regardless of the explicit violence scenes. Or maybe because I was expecting it to bring closer to the pleasant ending; revenge perhaps to the criminals who made the gruesome crime to pay for what they did. I expected it only for the mere justification that crime indeed doesn’t pay.
But the movie isn’t about this at all. I realized eventually that the ending is just apt for the movie. It explicitly describes what life in the real world is; particularly the line between poverty and the borders of evil.
What the film intends to do is to plainly allow the viewer to experience what the protagonist actually sees and hear. No musical effects, no sudden knock of thrill like what most suspense thrillers have. It uses a plain hand-held video cam that captures the sounds, the sights, the every single detail of what poverty is in the streets of Manila. There are even long, boring scenes, with no light, that makes you want to walk out the theater.
Coco Martin, as Peping (a police rookie), who struggles to make money for his newlywed wife and their baby, inevitably involves in an operation he knows nothing about. A friend, who helped him in their extortion business, will introduce him to what real business is in the underworld syndicate.
It begins when they kidnap a prostitute because of some debts she owes to the police, the Sergeant (John Regala), the Captain (Julio Diaz), Peping (Coco Martin) and his friend. What Peping doesn’t know what he will soon experience and totally change how he perceives life.
As Peping, inside the van, witnesses the beatings of the woman, he suddenly feels there’s something wrong with it, and thinks there’s nothing he can do about it. As the violence progresses into getting worst, Peping witnesses more of the enormities: the brutal beatings, the rape, the stabs, and the dismembering of the woman’s body as though it is an animal.
The most undesirable moment for Peping is not the one when he sees all of those enormities. It is the flat tire scene; as he goes out the taxi door to flag another ride for home, it confuses him what to believe and how to perceive life and about the world. The scene depicts in his point of view how he is going to deal with the experience after receiving a chunk of money from the Captain.
Many viewers were disappointed about the film. It probably made them vomit from the horrible butchering scenes. It probably made them want to close their eyes and scream for “Stop!” They probably thought this is not what a movie is.
Robert Ebert, a famous movie critic, even commented that Kinatay is the worst movie he had ever seen, saying further that he wants to apologize to Vince Gallo, who also received the same bad remark about his film, The Brown Bunny. On the other hand, Director Quentin Tarantino, who has been known for overt violent movies, admired the film saying to Mendoza in a personal letter:
“Your decision to never dramatize the murder, never indulge in movie suspense, was bold, daring, and to me, the whole point of making the movie in the first place.”
Although I was too late to watch this movie, I still feel this as a new movie that is worth-seeing in these current times. Kinatay won the Best Director Award (Brilliante Mendoza) at 62nd Cannes Film Festival.
One moral that I pondered about the film is from Edmund Burke’s : “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”