Netflix review: Maja Salvador proves her mettle in 'Arisaka'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Dec 09 2021 07:45 PM

Maja Salvador stars in 'Arisaka.' Handout
Maja Salvador stars in 'Arisaka.' Handout

A key witness was being brought to a venue where he was about to expose critical "narco-list" information to the press. Midway on his route, his car was ambushed by a group of crooked cops who shot the target and all his police escorts. Fortunately, policewoman Mariano (Maja Salvador) had survived the bloody encounter. Despite her injuries, she ran into the surrounding mountains to escape from her pursuers led by officer Sonny (Mon Confiado).

Mariano's survival ordeal in the wilderness was alleviated by the appearance of a young indigenous girl named Nawi (Shella Ann Romualdo), who nursed her back to health with the help of her family's traditional cures. Sonny and his minions remained hot at her heels, stopping at nothing until she was exterminated. Meanwhile, Mariano braced for an inevitable showdown, getting some assistance from an unexpected source.

For historical relevance, director Mikhail Red juxtaposed Mariano's struggle to survival to the Bataan Death March which transpired on the same area where the fateful ambush took place. The first scene had a cop relating the story about how his grandfather survived the Death March already foreshadowing the events to come. The Arisaka in the title referred to the Japanese military service rifle in use during World War 2. 

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Star Maja Salvador rallied us to root her on -- no matter how her repeated narrow escapes from death were practically superhuman. Hit by bullets, stabbed by a knife in the abdomen, punched on the face, asphyxiated by strangling -- absolutely nothing fazed her will to survive. Salvador obviously had to go through difficult shoots for this demanding role, which required her to fall onto concrete, rough brush, rocks, and going mano-a-mano with a man. 

Just when you thought Mon Confiado could not get any more despicable as a villain, here he is again playing another devil incarnate. 

The big revelation here was young Shella Ann Romualdo (first seen in short film "Black Rainbow" earlier this year) as the brave Nawi, whose youthful idealism would get seriously challenged. Martin Melecia, who played Nawi's father, imparted indigenous wisdom and frustrations to his daughter and to us, as well. 

From the very first scene, you immediately know that this is not by any means a low budget film. The ethereal quality of Mycko David's cinematography was extraordinary, and that was just in the opening credits at that point. 

Throughout the film, we will be treated to more shots and images taken from breathtaking angles with perfect blocking of characters, working well in dim light or with flames, for best cinematic effect. 

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