Maria (Philippines 2019)

Rating: **
Review Date: 6/6/20
Cast: Cristine Reyes

"You can't escape death. You ARE death."

Seven years ago, Maria (Cristine Reyes) worked as an assassin for a powerful drug lord. When she grew tired of all the killing, she managed to escape the organization by faking her death and assuming a new identity. But her happy and peaceful life as a loving wife and mother is about to be shattered when a man from her past recognizes her in a crowd and devotes himself to killing her for good this time.

First of all, let me just say that I hate Netflix and all streaming platforms. For whatever reasons, Netflix managed to secure the exclusive international rights for this film, and never bothered giving it a physical release. That also means that it's not available in any other markets or on any other media, so I couldn't just buy an Asian or European version of the film like I'd normally do with domestic streaming exclusives. Fortunately, a friend of mine let me borrow his account so that I could watch the film, which reminded me of the second reason why I hate Netflix so much. Their subtitles suck, and they don't have a dialog-only option. They only offer closed-captioning, which means you get to read every door opening, wind blowing, glass breaking, thunder rolling, background music, and heavy breathing sound effect in the movie, which is EXTREMELY irritating.

Cristine Reyes looks great throughout the movie, and while her fight scenes aren't very convincing, she's appropriately athletic, physically aggressive, and handles a gun with conviction and purpose. It's a straight forward revenge film in the spirit of "John Wick" (2014), but it suffers from weak writing and needlessly graphic violence. The villains are as incompetent as they are cruel, and the numerous torture scenes are sickeningly savage. The bad guys are psychotic and sadistic murderers, but there's no need to constantly remind me of how awful they are by glorifying their barbaric fetishes. The film is well-lit and looks really good for the most part, but the action scenes suffer from sub-par visual effects. Digital blood, muzzle flashes, bullet hits, sparks, and explosions spoil a lot of the fun and bring too much attention to themselves. This technology is still far from seamless and continues to be a constant eyesore in modern cinema. Unfortunately, it's the villains that drag down the film, as they fail to offer an engaging counterpoint or significant challenge to Maria's single-minded quest for revenge, which leaves her victories feeling empty and meaningless. But maybe that's the point - that nothing good comes from revenge.