BuyBust: In a Playground of Sinners and Saints

Photo from WellGo USA

ILLUMINATED BY neon lights and light bulbs that peer from the windows of tattered houses in a poverty-stricken area in Manila, agents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency stand by to conduct a buy-bust drug operation. Nina Manigan (Anne Curtis) senses that something is off during the entire exchange. After a few nervous breaths induced by her instincts, bullets start pouring down, and the entire team realizes that they were set up in an elaborate scheme inside a playground of sinners and saints.

Award-winning director Erik Matti’s BuyBust is a straight-forward revelation of the truth behind the ongoing war on drugs that continues to send the country into a downward spiral. Its fast-paced and violent scenes are crafted in a way that shows the point of views of the drug syndicate, the police, and the people who are caught in this game of cat and mouse.

The film cements its strong storyline by showing slices of reality in the daily lives of the people in the slums, the drug gangs, and the police through the eyes of Manigan and her squad. Both the police and the drug gang are merely doing their jobs, but they both became assets to a cruel system driven by people in power.

Under constant oppression by a local narcotics-pushing gang, the people of the slums are gravely affected when the gang battles with the police. This oppression is deeply manifested in a scene where Manigan and her fellow squad member asks for help from the people in the area, and a nervous elderly local opens his door to ask what consequences may fall upon the locals if they help the police.

As fists, bullets, and knives meet flesh, one’s morality starts to get tainted. As the film goes on, audiences may find themselves rooting for Manigan to continue the onslaught against both the oppressors and the locals, but it takes quite some time to truly digest what is happening. The buy-bust operation in the film—just like those that take place in the reality of our country—is something bigger than every Filipino. The film’s highlight is its presentation of a system that benefits only the ones in power. Everything is but an illusion— a stark contrast to the reality that every Filipino is unknowingly caught in the crossfire.

BuyBust’s intricate storyline is laid down in such a way that it creates differences in momentum between various scenes. The objective of the film is to make the audience realize that when something bad is going to happen, there is no time to breathe or think because the chaos is flashing right before their eyes.

By combining strong performances from the actors, complex and coordinated fight scenes that almost seem melodious, and rhythmic music that heightens the tension in each scene, BuyBust effectively depicts sights that occur in real life: from children who died after being caught in the line of fire, to dead bodies that are spread out in dark and musty alleys.

BuyBust is a powerful and gritty testament to the current state of the country as it shows an unspoken truth that everyone is familiar with, yet few dare to take a stand against. The film shows how the bloody drug war has become the daily reality of Filipinos, while at the same time proposing that things do not have to stay this way. F

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