On the Job is a grim yet likeable Filipino crime thriller, where cops and hitmen are pitted against one another while corrupt politicians pull their strings. It’s a familiar story, and while there are surprises lurking within an impressively dense narrative, there’s no spark of originality to distinguish it from any number of other crime thrillers (in particular, it owes a debt to the convoluted cop/criminal dichotomy of Infernal Affairs/The Departed).
Familiarity doesn’t preclude quality, of course. The film is anchored by suitably expressive performances from Piolo Pascual as Francis, a conflicted cop whose father-in-law is a powerful congressman; Joel Torre as Tatang, a lifelong criminal who approaches his murder-for-hire assignments as just another job; and Gerald Anderson as his protégé Daniel, a cocky, thoroughly unlikeable youngster. Each elevates their rudimentary dialogue by digging beneath the surface.
Director Erik Matti’s cinematography draws on film noir; his frequent use of confused, crowded frames and stark chiaroscuro lighting suits the murky politics through which his characters wade. On the Job features a number of twitchy action sequences, where Matti demonstrates both the ability to create suspense with careful framing and pulsing music and the ability to undercut it with restless quick cuts.