ASTIG (GB Sampedro)

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ASTIG is live wire energetic from the get-go. Literally meaning "tough" in colloquial Filipino, ASTIG the film soars with slamming urban score from Jesse Lucas and original songs by Edgardo Rustia, to complement the fast-paced, dangerous, and desperate lives that intersect within a few miles radius of a well-known notorious area in the city of Manila. 

The acting is impressive, especially an unrelenting and unrepentant Dennis Trillo as a document forger on Recto Avenue who also moonlights as a con man with several women. Sid Lucero is also notable as a patriarch by default struggling to keep his crumbling family together, as well as Edgar Allan Guzman, a man with such ideals forced into a Catch 22 situation. Arnold Reyes is not without merit, although the story involving his character could have been omitted; it was unnecessary bordering on obscene.

You get the director's POV trying to highlight the murky and unforgiving streets of Manila and its effects on hapless victims. GB Sampedro has a grasp of his subject matter, and though ASTIG may not be as gritty as Brillante Mendoza's TIRADOR, or as satirical as Jeffrey Jeturian's KUBRADOR, it knows what it wants- to be a straight-to-the-point urban drama. My only regret is that the third vignette (the film has four) could have been written better; otherwise scrap it altogether. 

Glaiza De Castro shines as the rose among the thorns. Though the film has various female supporting cast, De Castro owned the film with her turn as a naive colegiala who falls victim to Dennis Trillo's ploy; ironically, De Castro was the one who emasculated Trillo's character which eventually caused his downfall. She has such expressive eyes you cannot simply ignore.

It was nice seeing Chanda Romero onscreen again. Malou Crisologo and Keanna Reeves also render strong support, and a bandwagon of mostly Kapamilya stars turn up like mushrooms, such as Bianca Gonzales, Vhong Navarro and even Ai Ai De Las Alas. 

I liked that they shot within the CM Recto area, Arranque, and Quezon Blvd. But for a urban film tackling survival, how can they not feature a character selling pirated DVD?

Dennis Trillo's vignette is the film's best part.

RATING: 3/5 


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