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By Lei Landicho

Tandem wandered confusedly throughout its one and a half hour running time between two themes: one is a commentary on the dysfunctional system in the country that breeds criminal activities and the other is a presentation of an endearing fraternal relationship webbed between romance and crime. In the end, it defined itself as the latter and didn’t disappoint.

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The film is about Roman (Nico Antonio) and Rex (JM de Guzman), brothers who ride in tandem on a motorbike, snatching bags of unsuspecting bystanders for a living. They have one rule: Nobody gets hurt. One day, they attempted to rob a relatively big-time target on a construction site with the help of a friend working there. The target was killed by Rex whose purpose was to save Roman. The brothers went into hiding after the incident but were immediately found by the two corrupt cops they are paying off to be able to continue doing criminal activities. The cops blackmailed them in killing a higher official policeman. They didn’t succeed, cops were disappointed, and lives were lost in the aftermath.

De Guzman played convincingly a rascally younger brother who’s still learning the ropes of a two-man robbery job. He is both feisty and naïve, two qualities that led him, his brother, and their loved ones to harm’s way. Alongside him is Antonio who plays as his brother, Roman. Antonio’s performance was sufficient in mellow and heartfelt scenes but lacked in those where conflict and action arises.

Next to de Guzman’s excellent performance is that of Rochelle Pangilinan who played as Roman’s wife. Pangilinan, in her portrayal as a caring and distraught wife of a criminal, can be branded to be at par with indie film regulars Mercedes Cabral and Angeli Bayani. Although the story did not highlight her story, she was able to show a wider emotional range than Antonio and Elora Españo. Españo’s character, Nadine, may be deemed accessory at first – not particularly indicating significance to the story – but was in fact one of the strings that binds the plot with the conflict; and the brothers with the corrupt policemen.

Slogging at the first twenty minutes, the film tried to provide a glimpse of the lives of the men behind the helmet. It would be possible for the film to be paced at breakneck speed. Instead, it trails with a uniform escalation in arriving at an intense and heartbreaking climax. The film ended with a surprising turn of events making the lessons of Tandem memorable. With the successful build-up of events, neophyte Director King Palisoc assured that his message is left in the memory of the audience.

Tandem finds the right tone to present a crime noir fiction. Metro Manila streets have provided a dusky and chilling space for Tandem to come to life. Although it did not delve deeper into the larger picture of corruption and crimes, the mood that the film delivers is a perfect backdrop for the story of two brothers’ bond and journey towards their own misfortunes.

Combining notable performances from its cast and an effective presentation of a classic genre, Tandem revs up in the indie scene and will surely parade the mainstream cinemas with flying colors.

4 stars

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