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A classic modernized: A review of Ang Panday

Angas. Astig.

No one pulls off the late film icon Fernando Poe Jr.’s (FPJ) roles better than action star Coco Martin. Best known for playing police officer Cardo Dalisay in the hit ABS-CBN primetime TV series FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano, Martin makes his directorial debut under his real name, Rodel Nacianceno, in the latest incarnation of Carlo J. Caparas’ Ang Panday, which Martin also produced and starred in as the title role (originally played by FPJ).

Set in present-day Manila, the film is a modern retelling of the 70s cult classic of the same name. The main premise of Ang Panday is the same as the original story: blacksmith Flavio (Coco Martin) battles the demon Lizardo (Jake Cuenca) with a magical sword forged from a meteor. Unlike previous Panday remakes, the latest film builds on FPJ’s legacy by presenting the film’s narrative as a continuation of the age-old story, with Martin’s Flavio as the third generation balaraw wielder in the Panday bloodline. People don’t have to read the Caparas comics to follow the film version’s simple, straightforward story, but it was a nice touch that the film began with a short, well-narrated comic-book graphic animation of Flavio and Lizardo’s backstories to bring people up to speed.

Like other local box-office hits, Ang Panday has a bit of everything to please Filipino moviegoers. It’s filled with action, adventure, fantasy, family drama, landian, cheesy one-liners and meta-type humor–all the necessary ingredients for a hit Pinoy flick.

Ang Panday started with a lot of promise. The initial scenes were fast-paced and action-packed, with exciting fight and chase scenes that were well-choreographed. Flavio’s first film appearance, as a riotous gangster being chased down a palengke by hoodlums, was a treat to watch. Martin did awesome stunts, gracefully dodging the bad guys and fighting à la mixed martial arts, reminiscent of Probinsyano-style action. Typical of his roles, Flavio single-handedly beats his enemies, despite being outnumbered. Flavio’s mischievous mayhem really pumps the audience up, and sets the mood for the film.

Towards the middle, the film introduced too many unnecessary scenes and subplots that resulted in some scenes being given more attention than others. The “Mariposa” segment, where Flavio’s adoptive brother (Awra Briguela) competed in a gay beauty pageant, was too long. Flavio’s music video-style harana for his love interest Maria (Mariel de Leon) was full of cringeworthy fun, but it felt like a lazy way to fast forward Flavio and Maria’s relationship. The later fight scenes with Flavio as the Panday suffered, as they were trimmed down too much to give way to nonessential scenes (The film did redeem itself in the final battle between Flavio and Lizardo).

It was obvious that Ang Panday was trying to appease a more contemporary, more millennial crowd. At one point, however, the film began to feel like a hodgepodge of whatever scenes director Nacianceno wanted to include.

While the film has room to improve in terms of plot coherence, the film also has its strong points. The cinematography was fantastic. The film went all-out on its special effects and CGI, which was quite impressive. The composition of each shot highlighted the poverty, pollution, and congestion in shanty town Tondo and the contrasting idyllic nature of the colorful magical realm. Probinsyano fans would be pleased to know that the film was basically one big cast reunion, with almost every Probinsyano actor appearing in the film, as well as a handful of Probinsyano references.

Regardless, the casting choice was perfect–the actors fit the roles they played. Martin, of course, best embodied the “bad boy/kuya” figure and was more than credible as the Panday, but if there’s anyone in the film who really stood out, it would be Cuenca, whose praiseworthy performance as the devilish Lizardo was reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s Joker.

All in all, while Ang Panday may be one of the more commercial films in this year’s MMFF, it was a worthy incarnation of a hero who has long been part of Filipino pop culture. Nacianceno offered a unique take on the classic superhero, and he did not disappoint fans that are loyal to the folklore.

Featured photo retrieved from insideshowbiz.ph


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