Thursday, June 15, 2006

Manila's finest, I hope

NEW YORKERS CALL NYPD officers “New York’s finest.” These officers are respected. Respect from Americans comes from their confidence in the officers’ competence and courage.

Personally, I don’t have much confidence in our PNP. Respectfully, I hesitate to call our policemen “Manila’s finest.”

My image of the Filipino police officer is that of what I see in primetime network news where he is seen mocking arrested criminals in precincts.

I think of policemen who are seen hitting certain protestors with their batutas during rallies. Dispersal is dispersal but must we go “Guatanamo” on them?

I think of news footages of PNP officers learning to ride motorcycles in Crame. Many fell off their bikes when going through the obstacle course, making some of their peers too scared to go through with it, while others laugh and result to prayer or machismo group huddles (creating a ring of pot bellies) to psyche themselves up.

I think of the recent bombings supposedly by the enigmatic “Taong Bayan at Kawal” and how the case has no leads. And I think of how the first bombing didn’t prepare the PNP for the succeeding ones.

And I think of high-level officers like NCRPO Police Chief Vidal Querol, who are quicker to respond to television news agencies than to crimes, and who always manage to have press persons with them while they “inspect” the safety of places like the university belt. This screams “politics” rather than “protection.”

I hope the PNP is not as bad as I perceive. If ever there’s a break-in at my house, make no mistake about it, I’ll be calling the police. I just hope that their competence is greater than my confidence.

MV recommends: Another joint

TWO OF MY recent favorites by him were still set in his playground of New York City, but they didn’t revolve around African-American characters and African-American issues. In a sense, Inside Man and 25th Hour are the most mainstream he’s ever been. But still, when the opening credits rolled, the signature line flashed on screen: A Spike Lee Joint.

Inside Man stars Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, and Jodie Foster (can’t go wrong with those three). The story revolves around a hostage situation at a bank. Washington plays a street-smart police negotiator who faces off with an intelligent criminal (Owen) who has deeper motives than money and attention. This criminal has a score to settle on behalf of his once persecuted race. Far more valuable than the millions of dollars is a secret from the past—skeletons from closets long locked by the bank’s principle owner.

Writer Russell Gewirtz gets high marks for his smart, multi-layered script. Owen reaffirms his innate ability to play the smart tough guy with immense depth and sensitivity (like that of his role in Closer). And Washington is still the coolest motherfucker on the silver screen today (high praise considering this role required him to wear a ridiculous looking top hat and occasionally a bow-tie).

This Spike Lee Joint comes off the memory of 25th Hour (Edward Norton), which is a favorite of mine. Even if he’s gone a bit more Hollywood on us, Lee’s success in depicting complex stories with political nuances solidifies him as a quintessential American filmmaker, and a leader in social commentary on film.

Personally, I look forward to seeing him back in the writing credits. Many writers would love for him to direct their scripts, but I miss Lee’s own stories—the edgier ones like Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, and He Got Game.

Loved Inside Man, but take us back to the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Coney Island, Spike!


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