Cinemalaya review: Sleaze and suspense mix in 'F#*@bois'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Aug 11 2019 05:21 PM

This was the one title that immediately caught attention from the time it was announced among the next batch of Cinemalaya features. It was unbelievable that the whole F-word (a spelling variation, but pronounced the same way) found itself in a local movie title. I thought it would just be a working title of sorts, but it actually made it all the way to the actual festival (although three letters would be replaced by characters in the final poster, tickets and brochures).

I guess seeing these vulgar-sounding millennial words in movie titles make them mainstream normal now. First there was "Momol Nights," now there's "F#*@bois." I admit, I still cannot say these words out loud.

The titular "f#*@bois" were Ace Policarpio (23 years old from Macabebe, Pampanga) and Miko Ramos (18 years old from Bacacay, Albay). They work as male models joining bikini pageants in gay bars. They both aspired to be movie actors and were also popular Instagram personalities with significant fan following. One night, the two boys were blackmailed into going with a slimy politician to a private island resort for a night of lascivious carousing, or else a salacious video of them would be posted on the internet.

The two lead actors, Royce Cabrera (as Ace) and Kokoy de Santos (as Mico), were brave souls unafraid to bare their bodies in their first lead roles (their biggest break after years of small roles), as they play a couple of guys who would do practically anything to get ahead in life. Fortunately, there was also substance in their raw acting styles, projecting a certain vulnerability in their flawed characters that still made the audience care about the very tight predicament they're in, understand why they did what they did and actually root for them to get away with it.

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Ricky Davao won a Best Supporting Actor award for quietly underplaying his character in "Paki" (CinemaOne 2017). For Cinemalaya 2019, Davao is again on top of the shortlist for the Best Supporting Actor award, but this time for a crazy, unhinged, scary, over-the-top performance of a gay sex maniac as Mayor "Party, Party" Fernan. Hearing him sweetly say the words "Come to Mommy, boys" with that lecherous smile on his face sent all sorts of sick disgusting shivers going up and down my spine.

This movie was like two separate movies in one. The first half was a view inside the sleazy male model industry, chronicling the gaudy glitter of one Mr. Galaxy pageant night participated in by the two protagonists. Once the two boys were with the politician, the movie shifted gears to become a dark, tense and effective suspense thriller.

Director Eduardo Roy, Jr. (who had impressed us before with "Pamilya Ordinaryo" in Cinemalaya 2016) managed to smoothly transition in color, tone and mood to go beyond the exploitative nature of the subject matter. That abrupt ending felt like a grim cave-in.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."