A couple of Filipino guys put together a brilliant idea and decided to make a film on it. Neill Dela Llana and Ian Gamazon, two ambitious young men had the concept very much in place.
The idea revolves around an American Filipino named Adam, returning to his homeland in the Philippines only to become the target of a mysterious caller on a cell phone who has kidnapped his sister and mother and threatens to kill them if Adam doesn’t comply with certain demands of his. He is not allowed to hang up either. The caller has a task for Adam and Adam is supposed to see it through to its conclusion, failing which the consequences would be dire! Adam finds himself constantly stalked as he is made to travel all around Cavite city and explore its dark underbelly, in order to run the caller’s “errand”. Everywhere he goes he feels he is being watched and a lot of people seem to be “in on it”, as at every step, Adam finds something which enables him to move forward in his task. What’s more…the caller seems to know his every move! The plot thickens as Adam finds there is more to it than meets the eye. Why has he been chosen by the caller? Could it be some extremists who have involved him in something much more dangerous than he can handle?
So there you have it. Sounds great on paper, right? But does every great idea transform into a well-executed motion picture? Sadly not, and “Cavite” is testimony to this fact.
“Cavite” partially works solely due to its interesting premise. It is this premise that somewhat manages to engage the viewer, not the execution; because the execution simply doesn’t have much to talk about. Shot entirely on handheld camera that gets irritating after a while with its constantly wobbly and brownish yellow cinematography, the film captures mostly the squalid parts of the city where there are squatter camps and garbage dumps and hungry, naked children! Now such visuals should normally move the viewer but blame it on the handling, it fails to resonate with the viewer or evoke any kind of emotion, barring a few scenes which speak volumes of the inherent hypocrisy of terrorists who scream “Jihad” at the drop of a hat! Certain props used to scare or disturb us clearly appear fake and that is another big failure on the filmmakers’ part. The film feels slightly long even for its considerably short 80 minutes length, thanks to a lazy screenplay which just doesn’t reflect the sense of urgency or anxiety that is very much essential for the subject at hand. There are hardly any tense moments and the apart from the filmmaker, the person largely to be blamed for this is the lead actor, Ian Gamazon!
This is the kind of story that has to depend on the protagonist’s able shoulders, because ultimately, it is his predicament that is supposed to evoke sympathy in his favour and thus engage the viewer. Sadly our hero proves to be the weakest link as he fails to bring out the helplessness or the vexation that any guy in his shoes would feel. If someone is holding your mother and sister hostage and wants you to carry out a task that could get you in trouble, you should be one big bundle of nerves! But Gamazon almost casually goes through everything, trying to force some emotions on his face once a while and swearing out loud when he is unable to. Alas, it amounts to hardly anything and this is the film’s biggest failure. The actor just fails to connect with the audiences! Then how are we supposed to care about his outcome anyway. The background score is also very uninspired and incomplete; perhaps some attention to a good score could’ve provided some leverage to the film.
Some suspense built in the final half hour of the film raises our expectations and one wishes the makers hadn’t been slothful with the conclusion at least, but the film pretty much ends with a whimper. Add to that some done to death clichéd ramblings about how Muslims are targeted everywhere, thus forcing them to build terrorist outfits for “Jihad” all around the world and one particularly cringe-worthy scene about Adam’s American girlfriend “not wanting to have a Muslim baby” further mar any bright prospects for the film in the audiences’ favour.
“Cavite” is a solid idea that just barely makes it in getting successfully transferred to a gripping motion picture. It has its moments but as an overall product, it just about manages to stay afloat. Watch only if you must….
(Trivia :-)…But here’s an interesting fact. In 2008, Indian director Raj Kumar Gupta made “Aamir”, a Bollywood film which rips off the premise and most of the screenplay of “Cavite”. Only the action is shifted to streets of Mumbai city instead of Cavite! “Aamir” is a better made film, is considerably gripping and has a much better actor (Rajeev Khandelwal) playing the central actor. However, nothing can change the fact that it is shameless and unethical rip-off of “Cavite”. One only wishes Gupta had officially purchased the rights instead of blatantly copying, thinking that no one would notice. Sad..