Grisly Manila Street Crime Meets Political Corruption in the Engaging and Surprising On the Job


It’s a familiar problem for the criminal element: You need to rub your enemies out, but those pesky police always end up apprehending your shooters. The solution, as presented in Erik Matti’s On the Job (and based on a frankly amazing real-life scandal in the Philippines), is to use prisoners—temporarily freed from incarceration with the blessing of corrupt prison officials—to perform political assassinations. The drama follows two of these prisoners, the world-weary “Tatang” (Joel Torre) and his up-and-coming hitman protégé, Daniel (Gerald Anderson). There’s also a parallel story involving a golden-boy federal investigator (Piolo Pascual), himself the son of a former congressman, and a grizzled police sergeant (Joey Marquez) who may or not have told us he was “getting too old for this shit” (subtitles were inconclusive). Convoluted at first, On the Job unfolds gradually, revealing the sinister forces working behind the scenes as well as the more close-to-home motivations for the principals. Matti sets a brisk pace, utilizing the squalor and desperation of Manila’s slums and prisons as well as powerful, against-type performances by Torre and Pascual to give us a familiar yet engaging thriller (with more than a few surprises). Combining street-level crime with political corruption, On the Job owes as much to Scorsese as it does to Philippine current events. Call it Manila Mean Streets, and take comfort in the fact that—over here, at least—the powers that be only have our best interests at heart, right?