The sun beats down as if it's about to crash into the earth as Ian steps off his plane, returning to his crowded homeland, the Philippines. The smell of sewage and the irritating chatter of busy cabbies and confused tourists become more palpable than one can imagine through a screen. Suddenly, a call comes from a phone Ian doesn't recognize. He pulls it out of his bag, answers it, and suddenly everything else doesn't matter.Ian Gamazon
and Neill Dela Llana
's debut film sure does throw you for a loop as its ticking clock plot unravels. Ian, played by Gamazon, gets a slick, serious voice in his ear telling him that he must follow the directions that are laid out for him, or it's all closed curtain for his mother and sister. From there, he must duck past corners, rush through orange and red street markets, hop into bike cabs and performs other bizarre acts, only to end up in a church with a timely task. Article continues below
Cavite, though nothing less than a fascinating guerrilla exercise, main purpose might be to show why like-minded, stiff stipulation thrillers ultimately fail. Most recently, the Bob Cohen scripted Cellular brought on the idea that, literally, one cannot survive without one's cell phone. Though the satire is palpable, the film was played for thrills, not humor, and therefore, was not a successful film.
Instead, Cavite throws us head-first into a dizzying tailspin of Diaspora colors and settings and barking terrorist paranoia that has all the momentum of an ADD patient on a Red Bull binge. The moments of overblown dramatics are abandoned to give way to a more streamlined, kinetic pace that allows the tension to buzz along without stop. Where Cellular and, to a lesser extent, its derelict cousin Phone Booth, tried to fit in the idea of a breached nuclear family (the son that Kim Basinger
is trying to save, the wife and would-be girlfriend Colin Farrell tries to protect), Cavite seemingly casts its eyes solely on the alienated hero. From this, there actually seems to be a more emotional investment in the nearly unheard of family, since we are seeing the emotional investment through Ian's eyes and are not allowed to make our own judgments on the actions or personality of the family.
Of course, there are onions in the ointment. Gamazon can't really hack it as an actor; his panic to throw out the words in the amateurish script takes away from the manic energy of just watching him run around to the terrorists' whim. The climactic scene in a popular church gives an eerily ambivalent tone to violent action (a sort of inverse to the underrated Arlington Road). What starts as sweat-beading nervosa takes a bewildering turn into political bartering; its tone changes way too late in the game. However, there's no doubt that both Gamazon and Llana know their genre and understand how to make a thriller, and make one cheap as well; the entire cost of the film was probably a New Yorker's monthly tab of Metro Cards. Alarming and unrelenting, the film holds its panic like a proverbial feather in its cap.