By By Pablo A. Tariman
posted 10-Apr-2019  ·  
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Arjo Atayde during the premiere night of "Bagman." Intense acting on his first lead role.

This film begins as a simple story of ordinary people trying to make both ends meet and later hanging on to whatever it takes to survive.

By and large, it could be categorized into another city tale involving marginalized families resorting to risky jobs. These are people forced to jobs of last resort in and turning into characters trapped in the vicious cycle of ‘kapit sa patalim.’

This film opens as a simple story of a barber Benjo (Arjo Atayde) happy with what he has until he finds himself saddled with a problem the solution for which lies in city hall connections. His simple abode where his home and barber shop stand risks being demolished due to a road-widening project.

You know how much his little acre meant to him when he turns into an angry animal defying law and order just to keep shelter above his head.

Until he meets a guy offering solution to his domestic crisis.

Bagman written with competent direction by Shugo Praico follows the evolution of a barber turned bagman for a politician who seems to meet all his basic needs. Trouble is everything he gets comes with a price and the ultimate pawn his conscience.

The special preview of Bagman offers a lot that is most intriguing about this latest Dreamscape project for the iWant digital series.

First, it has a well-written story zeroing in on a simple man lured by quick solutions to his family problems. Indeed, there is nothing that he won’t do for his family.

Second, the direction offers a wide and yet pulsating layer on how people like him live. You can see and distinctly feel the milieu in which he lives. By turns, Benjo is endlessly helpless battered by problems with solutions popping up but at a dangerous price.

Benjo’s conscience is every now and then tested by his father-in-law played with conviction by Rolando Inocencio. And as his world expands and the moment of truth finally dawns on him, Atayde’s character acquires a measure of vulnerability that makes him more human and well, truly helpless, as the wheels of his fortune turn in varying directions.

As it is, Arjo is one big reason why you should watch "Bagman."

As the lead actor of this well-made socio-political drama, Arjo delivers an amazing level of acting that is at once natural, leaving the character exposed for what he is as a human being.

He begins with a small mindset of a barber and gets increasingly dangerous as his connections lead him to drug dealers and, well, politicians.

As husband, father and son-in-law, Benjo as portrayed by Arjo acquired many interesting facets that are at once real and as admirable and catastrophic as he tries to find his way out of the vicious web.

The result is an electrifying performance that blended well with the other members of the equally brilliant ensemble composed of  Inocencio, Alan Paule, Yayo Aguila, Chanel Latorre, and Raymond Bagatsing, among others.

You can say that Bagman is as timely as the coming elections. With President Duterte makes head lines with his narco list, here comes a film that is at once a reflection of present socio-political reality.

This is another aspect of the anti-drug war that should make this film as chilling as killings intensify.

The journalist (played brilliantly by Dido de la Paz) who loses his finger to a politician’s henchmen is a reflection on the state of press freedom in the country. 

Indeed, there is more to this film than just the excellent acting of both lead actors and ensemble. It is yet another episode of so many series in a true-to-life film called The Year of Living Dangerously. 

(Bagman is a 12-part series created by Lino Cayetano, Philip King, and Shugo. Its first six episodes started  streaming on iWant last March 20 with three more episodes on March 27, and the last three episodes on April 3.)

Arjo Atayde in a scene from "Bagman." First-rate acting and competent direction.
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