Hyper-charged, fact-inspired police thriller, familiar in tone, technique & story structure from Hong Kong pics like INFERNAL AFFAIRS/’02 (itself retooled as THE DEPARTED/’06), finds fresh drama from its Filipino settings (in & out of prison) and believability in the moral & political string-pulling corruption playing out behind the violence. The basic idea, ingenious enough for a caper pic, finds a powerful business & militia shadow government hiring long-term prisoners as hitmen enforcers. Secretly released for a job, they return behind bars before anyone’s reported them missing; perfect alibis for perfect kills. But when a smart, well-connected Fed investigator joins forces with a stubborn, old-line cop, they trace the line between all those upper-echelon dots of corruption, and make the most of their opportunity when a newbie executioner botches a hit. Director Erik Matti makes the criss-cross plotting easy to follow (in spite of some murky nighttime lensing from the Red Epic digital camera system), while his well-assorted cast helps maintain narrative clarity (no scorecard needed). And check out those serious Tony Chiu Wai Leung vibes coming from leading-man Piolo Pascual as the handsome, good-guy investigator.
DOUBLE-BILL: An ON THE JOB-2 sequel is in the pipeline for 2015.