It's about damn time that Philippine cinema incorporated more strong, female leads into mainstream movies. Hollywood has been trying to normalize this concept for years now and they've finally made some big strides thanks to the success of movies like Bird Box, Peppermint, Ocean's 8, and most recently, Captain Marvel. We’re a bit late to the party, but with films like BuyBust and Maria, we feel very optimistic about getting to see more badass females on the big screen.
Strong female leads come in all shapes and sizes. In this case, Maria is an ex-assassin. She quit so that she could lead a new, more peaceful life with a family of her own. However, unfortunate circumstances force her to face her dangerous past once again in order to save those close to her. We see a woman lose it all and try to seek revenge knowing that she will never be able to escape her past unless she destroys it completely.
Maria is not a movie about woman versus man but of woman versus everyone. It has some really intricate fight choreography involving numerous individuals trying to overwhelm Maria. What really impressed us was how they spaced each fight using clever camera angles, which made each swing, slash, and strike feel all the more dynamic. If we had to pick our favorite fight scene, it would be the one between Cristine Reyes and Jennifer Lee. This was definitely not your typical sabunutan scene, but rather a truly visually striking and riveting fight scene between two trained female fighters… in heels. Damn.
The plot is as straightforward as it gets but that’s what you need to make an action flick like this still feel organic. There are so many things happening onscreen that you need something to ground everything, and for Maria it was the main character's deep emotional drive and Reyes really portrayed this spectacularly. Watching the movie felt like playing an adventure-RPG where Reyes plays a Croft-esque character in the way that she is always the center of attention and the world reacts to her actions. Whatever she did made a huge impact on the world the movie is in and that’s what made each plot point so intriguing to watch.
Maria makes its world familiar and that’s what scares us. The beautiful cinematography that captures the gritty and sometimes gruesome state of the Metro gives the film more truth. Even the various city sounds makes us feel that we could place ourselves in each scene.
Maria joins the likes of BuyBust in rebooting the male-dominated action film industry of the Philippines. We have lived through decades of male action stars, clad in their leather jackets with guns in both hands as they shoot aimlessly at anyone who comes their way. And while there is nothing wrong with that, Maria proves that there is also nothing wrong in handing over the reins to over to women because the world is definitely ready to watch more films like this.
You can catch Maria in these theaters: