Film review: Adarna Gang

The character of the feisty and brave Adriana in director Jon Red’s Adarna Gang, is an ideal comeback vehicle for actress Coleen Garcia, who made her venture in an action-drama film for the first time.

You thought Coleen could only be dramatic or sexy? She can brandish a gun, too. She proved that in Adarna Gang, which marks the first time she uses a gun in an action-drama, something new and different for her.

As the daughter of Jose (played by Soliman Cruz), who gets killed in a bloody encounter, Adriana exacts vengeance with the rich and powerful Don Fernando Castillo (Ronnie Lazaro), the syndicate’s big boss and his adopted sons, Pedro, Juan and Diego, respectively, played by Mark Anthony Fernandez, JC Santos and Diego Loyzaga.

The latest iteration of the classic Ibong Adarna was written and directed by the multi-awarded and internationally-acclaimed visionary, Jon, who found inspiration from his favorite director, Akira Kurosawa in Ran (1985), a Shakespearean tragedy. Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972) became another inspiration.

Two minutes into the action-drama, the characters repeatedly cursed in their dialogue. The wealthy Castillo couple just came from the church, with Don Fernando even from the confession booth. But a mere mistake caused Valeriana, the wife of Don Fernando, brilliantly played by Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, to easily utter bad words. For a change, the consistently good girl Shamaine plays bad in Adarna Gang.

“Pu…ina, nakalimutan ko ang sobre,” Valeriana readily shouted as soon as she went out of the church. Clearly, the Castillo family lives a life of endless mortification. Going to church and confessing their sins are good cover-ups for their life of embarrassment and shame.

The musical chant of Pulang Lupa, used in the background of Adarna Gang, was beautifully woven into the scenes, from start to finish.

Adriana used to lead a simple life singing in a church choir, teaching voice lessons and quietly living with her parents – Jose and Maria (Mickey Ferriols) – or so she thought. Adriana’s dream of living a life in the province with her parents got shattered when her father was killed.

Subsequently, Adriana turned vengeful and with the help of Jay Manalo, one of her father’s trusted men. Jay hardly used any dialogue, but his character became an important factor for Adriana, whom he helped in every aspect of her vengeful wrath.

She discovered and entered a life of money, drugs, politicians, guns, women, goons as she planned to get even with the Castillo family, hardly listening even to the cunning Valeriana.

Adriana learned target shooting and she became good at it in no time. Eventually, she carefully plotted her moves to exact revenge. Ultimately, however, she sadly realized there’s no fulfillment in revenge as it is simply a never-ending cycle. What stood out for her is that it is always better to choose the narrow path, the better path.

Working with a mainstream film outfit like Viva with a major cast is rare for direk Jon, who previously megged mostly independent productions. He spent his own money for most of the films he released. “Very personal works,” he said.

Direk Jon made it a point to tone down the action for Adarna Gang, that also casts Rob Guinto, Archie Adamos, Raul Morit and even director Roman Perez Jr., this time as supporting actor.

“When we watch action, the violence is used as entertainment,” Jon explained. “Para siyang musical number. Doon na desensitize ang audience natin. Parang bale wala na. Sinadya namin ‘yun.

“In real life, makarinig ka lang ng putok ng baril, takot ka na,” he added. “Gusto namin ibalik ‘yun kaya hindi siya bugbog sa action. I realized that when we were doing pre-production, I checked when we would be needing gun effects.”

Direk Jon delivered a stylized drama in the newest presentation of Ibong Adarna. More of a drama with occasional touch of humor. In a way, Adarna Gang had a touch of satire, too.

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