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REVIEW: ‘BuyBust’ – Classy B-Movie Action

Buybust 1
Buybust 1
Buybust 1


Directed by: Erik Matti
Produced by: Vincent Del Rosario, Veronique Del Rosario-Corpus, Erik Matti
Written By: Erik Matti, Anton Santamaria
Starring: Anne Curtis, Brandon Vera, Victor Neri, Arjo Atayde, Nonie Buencamino, Lao Rodriguez, Alex Calleja, Levi Ignacio, Joross Gamboa
MTRCB Rating: R-16
7/ 10

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'Buybust' is the only Filipino action movie worth talking about


'Buybust' falls short in its storytelling and lacks some much-needed depth

When a drug bust goes wrong, a squad of PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) agents are stranded in the slums where the ill-fated operation went down. Pursued by gangsters and an endless horde of angry civilians, Nina Manigan (Anne Curtis) and her fellow agents must fight to the death to survive the long night.

Posted August 6, 2018 by


Filipino cinema is known for its nigh-bottomless pit of action movies especially anything with Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) in it, but few of them are even worth mentioning since they range from guilty pleasures to ego projects and/or rip-offs – that, and most of them could be viewed as unintentional self-parodies. Erik Matti’s BuyBust is the long-awaited exception to this rule and despite being imperfect, it left one hell of an impression on the country’s take on a genre defined by a lack of grit and a surplus of cheese.

Pushing the Envelope

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‘BuyBust’ [Credit: Reality Entertainment]

BuyBust is an action movie that has more in common with its American counterparts than its local ones, and that’s a great thing. Gone are the faux sentimentality, saccharine heroics, petty love triangles, brainless masculinity, blatant product placement, shameless pandering and obvious cynicism that would plague a Robin Padilla or Bong Revilla Jr.  vehicle from the post-FPJ days. In its place is frank violence, unapologetic brutality and a breakneck pacing that doesn’t leave any breathing room for both the characters and viewer.

Long story short, there’s a refreshing lack of bullshit.

The moment the second act starts, all bets are off and the bloodshed doesn’t stop until the credits roll. Anyone who’s not wearing a government-issued tactical vest may very well be out for PDEA blood, amplifying the already claustrophobic tension that Buybust uses to transform the Manila slums into a nightmarish maze of death and violence. The core characters – i.e. those whose names are said more than once since they didn’t get immediately shot in the face – help define BuyBust’s personality through their distinct looks and undeniable charisma, giving the movie an appropriate pulpy feel that compliments its blood-soaked aesthetic.

Though the fight scenes could have used some fine-tuning to hide the obvious choreography and the epileptic camera could have been held in place more often so that the audience doesn’t suffer a seizure from the oftentimes confusing visual geography, BuyBust’s selling point and best asset is worth the price of admission. Its story, on the other hand, is a different matter.

Busted Intents

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‘BuyBust’ [Credit: Reality Entertainment]

BuyBust’s faults are the same ones most action movies succumb to, and it’s unsurprising that it wasn’t able to avert these too. The movie dedicates a dragging 20 minutes to a large group of characters only for almost half of them to get gunned down before it even reaches its midway point, leading one to wonder why BuyBust even bothered characterizing meatbags – it would have been better for it to jump right into the action and exposit on characters’ backstories along the way, similar to what Mad Max: Fury Road did. In said introduction, subplots and origins are hinted but never expanded upon with the exception of Nina’s tragic past. This leaves many missed opportunities for much-needed character development that would have made the PDEA agents more defined than they were before getting shot in the face.

As an obvious commentary on the inept “War on Drugs” brought to you by an equally inept government, BuyBust fails to go deeper than what Filipinos already know. The movie’s politics are never heavy-handed but are surface-level at best. Anyone who watches the nightly news already knows who’s corrupt or not and what each character’s motivation is based on their social ranking and job alone. This sense of predictability numbs the tension that BuyBust built up, especially when someone explained the whole plot to Nina, nearly shattering the suspense with notably preachy moments and speeches.

These, however, can be seen as necessary evils due to the fact that BuyBust is – first and foremost – a B-movie. It may have a legitimately talented filmmaker at its helm, but BuyBust is still an unapologetic B-movie that capitalized on current events to tell its story – after all, what B-grade action movie would be complete without some obvious politics, campy characters and cathartic violence? By not taking itself too seriously and reveling in the schlock its genre was born in, BuyBust compensates for its flaws and never loses sight of the talking points it wants to get across – unlike what happened in the Death Wish sequels and a certain pretentious waste of 13 hours on Netflix.

An Action High

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‘BuyBust’ [Credit: Reality Entertainment]

Free from the tiresome pretense and self-importance commonly associated with Filipino independent films and taking notes from straightforward odes to adrenaline-fueled violence similar to its most obvious comparison The Raid from Indonesia, BuyBust single-handedly redeems the Filipino action genre after decades of self-indulgence and juvenile stupidity while also raising the bar to a seemingly insurmountable height.

It may not be the most thought-provoking commentary on the country’s current state and it’s not going to dethrone action perfection like the John Wick movies or the aforementioned Mad Max and The Raid, but BuyBust still succeeds as an entertaining, visceral action-romp that cements itself as one of the genre’s better modern entries.

Angelo Delos Trinos

Part-time artist and writer, full-time critic/overthinker. He believes that Samuel L.Jackson is the greatest actor on earth and he misses video stores.


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