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Why BuyBust deserves our attention

Subtle yet explosive, violent yet substantial, BuyBust (styled: BUYBUST) is director Erik Matti’s “first full-on action film” that promises more than gut-wrenching punches. The blistering combat film circles around an elite squad of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents shooting, stabbing, and punching for their lives in the labyrinth-esque apocalyptic fictional slums of Gracia ni Maria in Manila—but there’s no escapism in Matti’s story.

With critically-acclaimed films such as On the Job and Honor Thy Father under his belt, BUYBUST utilizes main lead Anne Curtis as PDEA agent Nina Manigan in a surprisingly progressive take on a female lead in the country, as her motivation is neither driven by a romance plot nor any cliché backstory other than to perform her solemn duties.

As the timeline of the film grows later and the squad dive deeper into the line of fire, the production design of Gracia ni Maria transports viewers in the middle of a raging war—do watch out for a specific one-shot take wherein Curtis single-handedly takes on a horde and shows off the tactical training she underwent before shooting the film as fight director Sonny Sison doesn’t easily pull any punches. Each bloody and gruesome slaughter scene could make Tarantino jump, all while gripping viewers on the edge of their seats.

To rattle the creeping reality that we are all victims of a vicious system

There are no flowery words in the script made by Anton Santamaria and Matti, no long monologues to make viewers pine or feel pity for the characters except for the timely bits of humor and grunts and groans that stir emotion in and of itself. Behind the apt script, the musical scoring by Erwin Romulo and Malek Lopez resonates the nail-biting action of the film—all while giving it the wit to contrast the dark elements of the story.

However, despite BUYBUST’s stunning visuals and features, its socio-political orientation makes viewers take the rest of the film home to ponder on piece by piece, as it depicts Matti’s own stand against the administration’s War on Drugs. Disguised as an adrenaline-inducing action film rooting for the agents in its posters and trailers, the film’s end goal isn’t to make viewers root for any side, but to rattle the creeping reality that we are all victims of a vicious system.

Only the start in crashing the desensitized illusion and opening the conversation on social realities that’s been rotting for two years

A noteworthy key taken from the film is the representation of each social class at its very worst. With the PDEA squad on a never-ending chase between the brutal drug gang and hordes of bloodthirsty residents, the hyperbolic portrayal of ruthlessness speaks volumes on how society perceives the lower class, and how often they are dismissed as nothing more than bodies laid to rest. A critical-thinking viewer would look past the gruesome action scenes and take time to analyze that all characters are ultimately pawns in a system that controls them all, each one a victim of those who abuse their power. BUYBUST is undoubtedly a thought-provoking ride, yet it is only the start in crashing the desensitized illusion and opening the conversation on the country’s social realities that’s been rotting for two years.

There is no winner in a game where each move is perfectly orchestrated.

From two years of shooting to a two-hour film. BUYBUST was filmed in 2016 and yet the references remain relevant to this day. At the end of the film— with a well-executed drone shot— the division of the bloody corpse-filled slums to the spotless city skyscrapers can’t be any clearer. There is no winner in a game where each move is perfectly orchestrated.

In the end, along with Manigan, viewers ought to be awakened too.

BUYBUST is now showing in cinemas nationwide.