REVIEW: Maria (2019) – Five Reasons Why Everyone Should Watch Maria
Our contributor Lorna Lovelace does her take on the film Maria which stars Cristine Reyes and is directed by Pedring A. Lopez. Here’s our review for Maria (2019) which is powered by Viva Films.
If you have been living under a rock, or stuck at home with your gadget while watching foreign shows from a streaming service, chances are you are clueless about the resurgence of Filipino action flicks in the big screen. Gone are the days of repetitive plots, cheesy lines, antagonists in leather or blue denim jackets, and damsels in distress waiting to be saved by their leading men in action movies. Thanks to Viva Films, their latest offering to the moviegoers is worthy of every cinephile’s time and money, and will surely be another smash hit for the film production.
Following the success of Buy Bust, Viva Films gifts us Maria, an action-thriller lead by a female character, played by the very versatile actress, Christine Reyes. If you are having second thoughts whether you should see or skip Maria on the big screen, let me present to you my top five reasons (and there can be more) why you should watch Maria.
1. What is it about? Maria tells the story of a sweet, young, and caring mother who ended up being a ruthless vigilante avenging the death of her husband and daughter. Christine Reyes plays the role of Lily, a former cartel assassin who was unable to fulfill one of the tasks assigned to her by the Black Rose organization. This lead her to fake her own death, with the help of her mentor, Greg (Ronnie Lazaro). Lily got herself a new identity as Maria, and started a new peaceful life with a family of her own – together with her businessman husband, Bert, and their daughter, Min-min.
When Lily’s former boyfriend, Kaleb (Ivan Padilla), who is also a member of the organization, finds out that Lily is still alive, he starts to track her whereabouts and eventually kills Bert and Mina. Here, we get to see a different side of Christine Reyes, where she effortlessly smashes through the cliched plot, and gives us a stunning performance as a grieving woman in action, who is hardened by a painful experience.
2. One of the reasons why Maria excels in the action genre is because, not only does Maria showcases Christine’s acting prowess, but this film also presents us her solid combat skills in Filipino martial arts. Her ability to pull off the physical aspects of her role shone in her action scenes. It’s no surprise though that Christine was exceptional in her stunts as she apparently underwent rigorous training. What impressed me the most is the fact that Christine did 90% of her stunts without doubles. If you were all eyes on and impressed with Anne Curtis’s fight scenes in Buy Bust, expect to see more of that with Christine kicking asses in this flick, thanks to Sonny Sison, the same stunt and fight coordinator for Buy Bust who also provided training for Maria. As a fan of Netflix’s The Punisher series, one cannot help but notice the similarities of Maria and Frank Castle, with both characters having a dark, traumatic past. Maria’s strong character would also remind you of a scorned woman who is up for revenge against her former lover, just like The Punisher’s Agent Madani. You can definitely compare their characters once you see that intense, memorable fight scene between Maria and Kaleb in this flick.
That Pieta scene of Maria and Min-min will cut you through your core, and Christine’s haunting performance will make you realize why she is the perfect actress to play this role.
3. The constant stream of combat scenes were seamless, fast, and flawless, which would only make you crave for more. The hand-to-hand combat action scenes looked pretty awesome and well choreographed.
You want gore, a bit of torture, and drama on the side, and an action-packed flick full of martial arts stunts? Director Pedring A. Lopez just balances the right melee of it. It’s like seeing elements of a Quentin Tarantino film but in a gritty, contemporary Manila setting.
The unsettling, savage torture scenes would keep you on the edge of your seat, would make you look away at times, and make you feel uncomfortable, especially if you don’t have a high threshold for violence, but don’t let that keep you from the catching the bloody details on the big screen.
4. The neo-noir style used in this flick is in a way, a refreshing whiff of air for moviegoers who are long-time fans of the action genre. The lighting and tone used throughout the film is good, and the soundtrack provided by Mr.Bones and the Boneyard Circus complemented the mood for each sequence.
5. The other actors in the film were also superb in their acting. KC Montero is such a revelation here as Victor, Kaleb’s brother, who is also one of the leaders of the Black Rose cartel. The true extent of his villainous ways was slowly revealed in the film and one thing I can say is that he played his role as an antagonist well, as his scenes caused so much tension and terror for the viewers.
If Christine Reyes is the shining star in Maria, then Ronnie Lazaro is the gift that keeps on giving in this flick. He is such a scene stealer playing the role of old-man Greg, Lily’s retired mentor from the cartel. This man just never loses his charm on screen, his sardonic lines and personality will remind you of the Starz series American Gods actor, Ian McShane who plays the role of Mr. Wednesday. One thing is for sure, you will be definitely drawn into his character here.
Of course Maria has its flaws too – a few actors who seemed robotic and throwing lines that seemed inappropriate and unnatural, and the transitions from one sequence to another just doesn’t seem to exactly fit. Its plot might not exactly be unique and it also leaves its viewers with an open-ended scene suggesting a sequel, but this flick is definitely one of the fresh, good ones produced locally that would leave a mark in the action film genre. If you are on a hunt for a decent action flick, this one is absolutely entertaining and you’re going to love Maria to bits.