Maria – review (Netflix)

     Maria (Cristina Reyes) was a top assassin for Ricardo De la Vega’s (Freddie Webb) Black Rose crime syndicate, under the name of Lily. Seven years before she had told Kaleb (Germaine De Leon) a fellow assassin, son of De la Vega and her lover, that she wants to stop killing people. Kaleb tells her that he will speak to his father after one last job. 

     During the job, Lilly/Maria goes into the location and kills everyone, ending up in a bedroom with a mother and child cowering in fear. Kaleb, who is with her, orders her to kill them. She refuses and shoots him in the leg. The family put a hit on her. 

    Mr Greg (Ronnie Lazaro), the man who trained Lily/Maria and most of the elite assassins, helps her to fake her own death and disappear. Seven years later, Lily, having left that life behind and living now as Maria, has a family, a husband, Bert (Guji Lorenzana) and daughter, Min-Min (Johanna Rish Tongcua). 

     Bert is a supporter of Governor Villanueva (Johnny Revilla), a man he believes will bring an end to the Black Rose syndicates criminal activities. De la Vega, who had supported the governor during his campaign, is not happy and wants the governor dead. He tells Kaleb and his brother, Victor (KC Montero), to kill the governor. Victor and Kaleb do not see eye to eye. 

    Victor feels that their father favours Kaleb, whereas he believes that Kaleb is a liability to the family business. Whilst planning total out the governor, Kaleb spots Lily/Maria. He decides that he has to find her and sends men to get her. When some men try to come for her whilst she is out shopping, she is forced to kill them and realises that her past has caught up with her. 

    Lily/Maria rushes home and tells a confused Bert that they have to leave. min-Min begins to cry seeing her mother so distressed. There is a knock at the door and Kaleb and his henchmen have found them. Lily/Maria kills half of them, but Kaleb grabs Bert and demands she surrender. Lilly/Maria stops fighting. Min-Min goes running toward Bert and Kaleb kills her. That causes both Lily/Maria and Bert to fly into rages and the fighting starts again. Bert gets killed.

    Lily/Maria puts a couple bullets into Kaleb, knocking him to the ground, him wearing a bulletproof jacket, his men drag him from the house, retreating. A distraught Lily/Maria leaves the scene, going back to Mr Greg. Mr Greg, as the man who is known by everyone, has an agreement with the Black Rose and they will not attack him. He tells Lily/Maria that she should disappear and not take revenge. 

    Lily, insisting on being called Maria, states that is not an option. Kaleb sends Miru (Jennifer Lee) to get Maria. Maria attacks the Black Rose drug business as she goes looking for Kaleb. She then goes to a nightclub where she fights with Miru and kills her. She goes to the club manager (Ronnie Liang) to find out where Kaleb is. He gives her a mobile phone. She kills him when he insults her. 

   Kaleb calls her. They are to meet at the docks to finish their feud. Victor is told by their father to help him. Victor plans to kill everybody, including Kaleb. Maria goes to the docks and kills Kaleb’s men. Victor’s men try to kill Kaleb and the rest of his crew, but Mr Greg starts to kill them from a sniper position. 

   Victor retreats leaving only Maria and Kaleb for the final battle. She kills Kaleb. De la Vega tells Victor to avenge his brother. The end. 

   Another day, another Netflix offering and, in keeping with the standards they seem to have set for films, they have Maria, a Filipino film of dubious quality. Maria is not good, it is watchable for the some of the fight scenes – though having recently watched John Wick 3: Parabellum, it is hard to be impressed – the story is convoluted and messy and the acting is uneven. 

    Reyes as the lead character Maria is quite good and believable in the action scenes, as are Lorenzana as Bert and Tongcua as little Min-Min. The main villains, however, are awful. The terrible script does not help, though I suspect that as it is in three languages – English, Filipino and  Llocano – that may have contributed to the unevenness. Does not help the acting though. Germaine De Leon is particularly teak like as Kaleb, and KC Montero’s Victor is not much better. Freddie Webb as De la Vega makes the two sons look like Tony award-winning thespians, so woeful is his, not at all intimidating, performance as the boss of the Black Rose family. 

      The close of the film pointed towards a sequel, with the obvious revenge of the De la Vega’s story set up with the killing of Kaleb. Hopefully, they can find better writers, Pedring Lopez, Yz Carbonell and Rex Lopez having written this effort. It is directed by Pedring. Pedring is also credited with having come up with the story, or he watched John Wick and thought he would replace John Wick with a girl and set it in, his home, the Philippines.

    The directing is quite good even if, in parts, very derivative of better films. At ninety minutes long, Maria is not a long film but it does take nearly half its runtime to get into its stride, with the first half of the film filled up with unfinished ideas, torturings to show how bad the bad guys are and wooden deliveries. 

   Maria is not unwatchable, but I cannot, in good faith, recommend it either. It is not good. 


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