See the job, do the job. Shoot a Glock, punch the clock.
Based on a true-life, precinct-clearing scandal that rocked the Philippines, On the Job tells the story of high-ranking politicians who employed the services of prison inmates to act as hit men. The contracted cons would be on furlough long enough to air-condition their prey and still have time to spend the night in their conjugal beds.
Why favor hardened convicts over seasoned mob enforcers? According to the boss — a comely, chain-smoking femme fatale always looking on from the crowd or peering through the cracked window of a nearby limo — “outsiders are headaches.” There’s no back-talk when it comes to well-compensated convicts-for-hire, and what better alibi is there than “I was in jail at the time the crime was committed, your honor”?
The few, the proud, the expendable. They’re only as good as their last day served. Once sprung, as civilians, their services are no longer needed.
On the Job
At the center of this Filipino crime thriller stands a pair of mentorship programs aimed at encouraging the advancement of two young working professionals. Locked up for 13 years over a lethal wage dispute involving a former boss, Tatang (Joel Torre) takes the young, overconfident Daniel (Gerald Anderson) under his wing. The cocksure kid glides through the jail’s underbelly like a goodfella being escorted to an impromptu table setting at the Copa, minus the unbroken take.
The older man is just weeks from parole, but in spite of a loving wife (Angel Aquino) and daughter (Empress Schuck) to come home to, Tatang doesn’t leave the well-paid work-release program. Reluctantly, he schools his young successor. Were Tatang to one day screw up, would Daniel be able to follow executive orders and take out his mentor? When confronted with the back-stabbing scenario, Daniel shakes his head and says, “That’s impossible. You’ll never screw up.”
After the jailhouse gang wipes out a prominent drug dealer, rookie sergeant Joaquin Acosta (Joey Marquez) is assigned the case. Under the watchful eye of his crooked politician of a father-in-law, Acosta slowly gains the information needed to blow the assassination ring’s cover.
Part of what made Drug War this year’s most rewarding police thriller was director Johnnie To’s insistence on sticking to the job at hand. On the Job falters in its staging of lackluster police procedurals. The action eventually grinds to a halt for this year’s most unwarranted sex scene, which is backed by the syrupy strains of the film’s incongruous love theme.
As the wizened wiseguy, Joel Torre brings presence to spare, making even the most mundane depictions of Tatang’s homelife tolerable. With the prospect of losing his government-sanctioned contract job looming large, Tatang will go to any length to remain in stir. When his daughter finally comes around to wishing death upon her father, it’s too late. The old man died reels ago.