Metro Manila is so spellbound by its setting that it is a good hour before we discover what kind of film it is going to be. It begins as a swirling drama of survival in the Filipino capital — but then suddenly it slips off down an alleyway, only to emerge a scrupulously engineered, Christopher Nolan-ish crime thriller.
The screenplay (co-written with Hollywood scribe Frank E. Flowers) boasts the stock characters and situations, sentimentality, foreshadowing and melodrama of soap opera. Yet by cleverly blending these ingredients with those of an action caper, the pic presents a fresher appeal.
Sean Ellis doesn't so much understand Filipino society as merely sees it as grist for standard genre fare, perhaps hoping that the foreign setting will somehow automatically make the clichés feel fresh.