• BuyBust (Well Go USA) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Well Go USA
    Released on: October 16th, 2018.
    Director: Erik Matti
    Cast: Anne Curtis, Brandon Vera, Victor Neri
    Year: 2018
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    BuyBust – Movie Review:

    Directed by Erik Matti, who co-wrote the script with Anton C. Santamaria, the 2018 Filipino action film BuyBust follows Nina Manigan (Anne Curtis), a new recruit working for the Drug Enforcement Agency. She answers to Dela Cruz (Lao Rodriguez) and Alvarez (Nonie Buencamino), two superiors who she feels are leading her and a few others into an ambush as they’re sent straight into a Manilla slum ruled over by Biggie Chen (Arjo Atayde), the toughest and most ruthless of the city’s drug lords. They’ve questioned a dealer named Teban (Alex Calleja) and pummeled him for information, so this should be a slam dunk.

    Of course, this backfires and Nina’s squad winds up outnumbered and essentially trapped deep inside the maze-like neighborhood and forced to fight their way out.

    If this sounds more than a little bit like The Raid, and by extension Dredd, you’re not far off. This doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of action movie nirvana that those two films provided but there are times where it gets damn close. Those put off by the type of cinematography that goes in close and teds to get a bit shaky might be put off by the visuals but if you can get past that, BuyBust is a pretty rewarding watch, the kind that action movie fans should appreciate. The violence is prolific and frequently very stylish. It can be exceptionally brutal at times (there are a lot of head shots in this movie!) and very little of it is left to the imagination, but it’s tense, exciting stuff. In addition to the frequent scenes of bloody bullet ballet, there’s some solid hand-to-hand fighting in here as well – something for everyone? Sure, let’s go with that.

    As to the plot itself? It’s pretty standard stuff but there are a couple of unexpected and clever twists thrown into the mix to keep things interesting, even if at times it does still feel a little too familiar for its own good. It’s hard not to call into question current Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte and the ‘take no prisoners’ war on drugs he’s currently waging in his country when you watch this picture. Matti’s film doesn’t paint an all together pretty picture of the drug enforcement agents in question, making it painfully clear that some of the higher-up’s are corrupt and, in many ways, just as bad as the criminals that they’re tasked with stopping. As such, we get a bit more food for thought here than you might at first expect. There’s probably a fair bit more that those of us who don’t reside in The Philippines will miss, but if you’re even half way paying attention to the news stories coming out of that country in this regard, you’ll pick up on enough of it.

    Anne Curtis really shines here. The rest of the cast is solid and the bad guys really do a great job of portraying their characters as enjoyably sleazy, but this is Curtis’ show for the most part and she takes full advantage of it. She makes for an engaging lead, handing herself impressively well in the action set pieces and doing just as fine a job with the picture’s more dramatic elements. Some more character development would have given the actress more to work with and probably been a benefit to the picture – Nina is only slightly more than one-dimensional – but she’s got a pretty commanding screen presence and shows a real aptitude for kicking ass.

    Production values are decent. The location work really brings us into the moment. The score works, adding an extra layer of intensity to all of this. The film also really works in some pretty wild color work, creating some truly memorable visuals. Matti and company keep the film paced well too. Again, the shaky-cam gets to be a bit much in spots but overall, BuyBust delivers.

    BuyBust – Blu-ray Review:

    Shot on high grade professional digital video cameras, the transfer on this AVC encoded 1080p high definition release frames the movie at 2.39.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. As you’d expect, there’s no dirt or debris here (one of the benefits of a digital to digital transfer) and detail is generally outstanding. Colors are nicely reproduced – though it’s clear that some post-production work has been done here that, when combined with some of the trippier lighting used in the film, results in some really strange hues being used throughout. Black levels are strong throughout and contrast is solid. Overall though, no complaints – the movie looks very good.

    There are Tagalog (with occasional stretches in English) and English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks provided. Both mixes are very active. There are moments of intense surround activity throughout though that add to the intensity of it all and that, in turn, add to the fun. Levels are properly balanced and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. Gun shots really kick here, and there’s a strong low end to the mix that makes that helps out the action scenes quite a bit. Optional English subtitles are available. An optional Tagalog track is also provided in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.

    The main extras on the disc is a half-hour Making Of featurette that is a mix of genuinely interesting behind the scenes footage shot on set and interviews with the principal cast and crew members. We get a look at how some of the action set pieces were put together and here from those involved about their respective roles in the production. The best parts involve Matti talking about how and why he got inspired to make the film after a real-life experience left him pondering a situation similar to the one the agents find themselves in during the course of the movie. Also included on the disc is a twenty-seven-minute panel from San Diego Comic Con where Brandon Vera and Erik Matta answer questions about the picture alongside a handful of other people that are

    Three trailers for the feature, menus and chapter selection round out the extras. Promo spots for a few unrelated Well Go USA properties play before the main menu loads and this release also comes packaged with a slipcover. Additionally, as this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD version of the movie tucked away inside the keepcase.

    BuyBust – The Final Word:

    BuyBust is, in a word, intense. It’s at times astonishingly violent, but there’s more to it than just stylized carnage and mayhem, as the film benefits from smart writing and interesting characters. Well Go USA’s Blu-ray release is a good one, offering a fine transfer and excellent audio alongside a few decent extra features as well. Action movie junkies should eat this right up.

    Click on the images below for full sized BuyBust Blu-ray screen caps!