Sinag Maynila Movie Review: Expressway

Despite its conventional elements and misplaced redemption, Expressway still manages to be an engaging Noir crime movie thanks to solid performances, editing, and cinematography.

A syndicate old-timer named Ben needs to do one last assignment before the boss he works for grants him his much-delayed retirement. Assigned to be his partner is the neophyte Morris, a trigger-happy, sadist who yearns to impress the syndicate boss. For Ben, this last assignment turns out to be a journey of introspection, self-healing, and redemption. With this awakening, he takes it upon himself to pull Morris out of the eventual hell-of-a-life he says he has lived as a hitman.

Philippine gangster movies haven’t evolved from the cliched star vehicles, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t anymore stories to tell.

Expressway is an engaging two hander, thanks to its performances. Aljur Abrenica turns in a decent performance as a young sadist. However, it is Alvin Anson that shines with an affecting performance for Ben, a dutiful world-weary syndicate old-timer looking for redemption.

What really makes Expressway stand out as a crime movie is its editing and cinematography. It’s a well made Noir film with more than just your typical shootout. Jazzy score, lighting contrasts and stark imagery gives its typical sneak and shoot scenes an artistic and captivating look. The first scene alone already tells you what you’re in for. Ben sits patiently on a couch in a living room as the target (a cop) comes in making out with his girlfriend, then proposes to her before laying his fiancee on the table for some premarital practice. Eventually, the girl notices the still figure watching them. The cop convinces his fiancee to leave and confronts his killer. Under the shadows created by the sole light outside the door, the cop makes a ploy to save his life. Unfortunately Ben is too quick for him. Morris comes in cleaning his knife, hinting at his future bride’s fate.

Compared to most of gangster movies in Philippine cinema, this approach makes Expressway one of a kind – a movie that makes an effort to stage stylish violence without diminishing its impact. And yes, it also helps to cast Abrenica’s abs.

On the other hand, for a moviegoer with a much broader diet of films, it’s a predictable crime movie with a typical narrative. The story of an old timer paired off with a hotshot coincidentally tied to a dark past is nothing new. It doesn’t help that in the end, the movie provides the audience with a misplaced redemption that defeats its purpose.

It can still be said that Expressway is an entertaining crime movie that pays homage to classic Noir films. It’s able to repackage familiar elements to become a refreshing addition to a forgotten genre.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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