There’s no place in existence that’s crime free. While America is a hot bed for violent, unexplainable, vile crimes; a level of equally atrocious events take place in other sections of the world as if they were part of the acceptable culture. Illegalities are allowed to happen and the police are for sale to the highest bidder. Graceland takes aim at the world of kidnapping and child prostitution in the Philippines as if it were a real life Coen Brother’s scenario. From uncomfortable realism to Hollywood style twists, Graceland delivers on all fronts in a perfect little package.
Amongst the hustle and bustle of Manila, Marlon Villar is doing all he can to carve out a good life for his family. His wife is bed stricken at a hospital, in need of a transplant– leaving Marlon to care for their daughter on his own. He also looks after the lives and affairs of his employer, Mr. Chango. Chango is a corrupt politician with too much money, and Marlon is his driver. Yes, Marlon drives Chango to and from meetings, as well as taking Chango’s daughter to school, but a lot of his duties include dropping off underage girls that Chango has paid to sleep with. It disgusts Marlon, but he does as he’s told so he can raise the money to save his family.
After picking up his daughter and Chango’s from school one day, Marlon is stopped by a policeman. This policeman doesn’t want to give Marlon a ticket. In a swift and unflinchingly brutal second, Marlon’s daughter is taken. When the kidnapper(s) realize they have taken Marlon’s daughter and not Chango’s, they use Marlon as a pawn to get what they want.
Tripping through a Kafkaesque world of an underbelly he only knew by second hand experience, Marlon proves an interesting character that is easy to champion for– while you damn his name from the side of your mouth. It’s easy to feel empathy for the character in his journey to do right by his own, but whether it comes from watching him stand by as horrific actions are taken, or his inability to just make things right, he makes you damn him in the same breathe. Arnold Reyes brings wonderful balance to a role that can easily be skewed too far in one direction by another actor. While Graceland is out to uncover a larger problem in a world everyone doesn’t pay attention to, it’s the internal fight of the viewer on how to feel about a group of men who on all sides care for their own at the expense of others, that drives the movie.
Graceland was not built around a desire to shock the audience with awe striking twists and turns, but it succeeds in doing so without tumbling into a ditch of convoluted story lines. Straight and to the point, Graceland is like a limo driver that locks you in and takes you to a place you don’t want to go. You’re forced to watch the world that exists under the rocks and while the driver doesn’t speed through, he moves fast enough that the experience counts, without a lot of fuss.
Rating: 3 and a half out of 5 ‘Staches