REVIEW – ‘The Maharlika Warrior’ DIRECTED BY Hilarion Banks

Written by Cruz Thomas & Lindsay D. Castillo and directed by Hilarion Banks, ‘The Maharlika Warrior’ stars Lindsay D. Castillo, Hazel Luzano, Madeleine Nicholas and Andrew Truong.

Written by Cruz Thomas & Lindsay D. Castillo and directed by Hilarion Banks, ‘The Maharlika Warrior’ stars Lindsay D. Castillo, Hazel Luzano, Madeleine Nicholas and Andrew Truong. The 50 minute feature finds a defence attorney abandoning her law practice to save her cousin after she is abducted into sex trafficking. Realizing that justice system is sometimes inhibitions in the way of true justice, Tala will transform into the Maharlika Warrior, an ancient spiritual warrior who will use brute force to dispense justice against those who wronged her friend.

Superhero stories have troves of backstory to draw from, using decades of comic stories to set the stage for an onscreen showdown. The comic based films often go deep into their own lore in order to develop a solid foundation to initiate a franchise. However, here, the makers have instead used the very real menace of sex trafficking as the backdrop of the story. Tala finds her best friend lost to sex trafficking and in her rage to get her friend back, Tala reluctantly transforms into a force for justice. This is where The Maharlika Warrior detours from its cartoonish counterparts. While most other superhero films use cardboard cutout villains with flimsy motivations in order to develop the protagonist, here the viewers can absolutely relate to the menace of the antagonists. The antagonists are clear cut bad guys and they need to go; this is all that is needed to the audience to support the protagonist.

The script, while formulaic, does offer something new. While the first and second acts build both the characters and the world, the third act is solely reserved for hand on hand action. Thomas and Castillo both manage to infuse some originality into the script and thus, the feature manages to say something new by the time it ends. Both the dialogues and the monologues are hard hitting and Lindsay D. Castillo is undoubtedly given the best lines. The transformation from script to screen is impressive which is to be expected since Castillo both wrote the feature and is the star of it as well. She knows where to infuse tension and drama and thus, is able to play both sides of the production really well.

In the acting department, The Maharlika Warrior is better than average. Lindsay D. Castillo is obviously fantastic and the entire feature rests on her shoulders. She is feisty when she needs to, shows emotion when the plot demands her to and is a towering presence over the entire production. Her top physique and equally impressive fight choreography are a sight to behold and as she goes through bad guy after bad guy, one cannot help but applaud the carnage on display. However, this is not all as the supporting cast do their due as well. Hazel Luzano, Madeleine Nicholas and Andrew Truong are all great and manage to bring their characters to life with zeal and fervour. The cast works together brilliantly and each character is given his or her moment to shine.

For a superhero action epic, what matters most are action sequences and this is where The Maharlika Warrior excels. The fight choreography is fantastic and each punch and kick feels brutal and real. There are no dance-like martial arts sequences here where the focus is as much on grace and gymnastics as it is on the actual attacks. Rather, each punch shows intent to kill or maim. The creator’s choice to go with this makes the fights that much more exciting and brutal. The camera work that coordinates closely with the fight sequences also makes the tension infused action sequences better. The stunt work also manages to impress and what we end up with is a thoroughly detailed action feature that manages to break out of its mould and soar into the stars.

In addition, it is the cinematography that gives the feature its unique visual flavour. Drenched in shades of red, violet and indigo; there is a certain visual grandeur to each frame. Showcasing the rage inside Tala, the neon lit set pieces make the action that much more exciting. From a technical aspect, The Maharlika Warrior is a fantastic feature. From the lighting to the sound design and from the stunt work to the brisk editing, every aspect works in tandem to create a fantastic audiovisual experience. Ofcourse, it helps alot that the script and acting is equally good.

All in all, this is a fantastic production made on a shoestring budget that excels in all aspects. The Maharlika Warrior has it all; an emotional central plot made better by fantastic action sequences and lighting. The feature clearly shows that passion can make the impossible possible and what Castillo and her team have been able to achieve here is mindblowing. With a television series based on this feature on the way, we can expect to see much more of The Maharlika Warrior in the future.

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