Alex (Adrian Cabido) is a fifteen-year-old boy who, out of desperation, had to take a job as a gun-for-hire. His father is confined in critical condition at the hospital, and his girlfriend is giving birth soon. He also has to support his younger brother to keep him from dropping out of school.
Bor Ocampo’s “Hitboy” starts off with an interesting tone: Alex’s phone alarm goes off, after which he reluctantly goes to the streets, stealing an unguarded bicycle along the way. From there, the film continues to go on a cheery mood, following Alex in a seemingly spontaneous road trip that finds him in a secluded farm. Things take a dark turn when he meets the farmer tending the lands. He tells the farmer that he only wishes to ask for a few mangoes. Clearly, though, Alex has a more sinister motive in mind.
This dark, sullen tone goes on as we follow Alex’ story. His arc pulls the audience to the predicament of a child who has to get his hands dirty at such a young age, treading on themes of such films as Eduardo Roy Jr. “Pamilya Ordinaryo”, or Brilliante Mendoza’s “Kinatay”. Alex is unwillingly thrown into a situation where he has to lose all sense of childhood—and humanity—in order to survive.
As we move on to the second act, the film appears to take on a different structure. The moody atmosphere morphs into a comedic one. We are introduced to Alex’s ruthless boss, Ricky (Soliman Cruz), who orders him to assassinate the equally brutal movie star Mon Confiado (interestingly, played by Mon Confiado himself), who is secretly an underground mobster. While the scenes with Alex and his family feel somber and desperate, the film’s villains are comical, even cartoonish.
The contrast in comedy and suspense can be the film’s method of showing that to Alex, the weight of the world is on his shoulders but to the merciless antagonists, this is just another day to be laughed off. Or it can be the film’s satirization of men in power: insane, ruthless, and for the most part, legitimate dimwits. This is smart on paper, but here, in the film’s execution, it becomes one of the film’s pitfalls. The film’s structure renders itself wobbly and incohesive, making it difficult to connect with Alex’s ineffable plight. That plenty of the film’s characters are one-dimensional caricatures, doesn’t help either.
To be fair, “Hitboy” has its redeeming moments. Juan Miguel Salvado, who plays Alex’ younger brother Jay-jay, is a gem among the film’s younger actors. Soliman Cruz and Mon Confiado seem to have a grand time portraying the film’s villains to cartoonishly maniacal extremes. It’s remarkable how these seasoned actors mold characters that without sweat is able to switch from hilarious to menacing to even fatherly.
While “Hitboy” may not be on top of my list for CineFilipino 2018, it at least lands as one of the most memorable. This the film owes to that unfairly catchy “Confiado” tune.
2018 / COMEDY, DRAMA / PH
Direction: Bor Ocampo
Screenplay: Bor Ocampo, Mark Gregory Bayani
Cast: Adrian Cabido, Soliman Cruz, Mon Cofiado, Rosanna Roces, Rea Molina, Juan Miguel Salvado
At 15, Hitboy Alex is a full-time kid who plays a game of survival as a part-time gun for hire.