Movie review: 'Untrue'

March 03, 2020

REVENGE is for people who won’t turn the other cheek and refuse to forgive and forget. “An eye for an eye.” In the movies, it’s a favorite theme and constant motivator that makes for an engrossing plotline, involving a lot of scheming and deception to achieve the desired kind of retribution. It’s best served when it’s told in a straightforward manner, like Uma Thurman kicking a lot of asses in “Kill Bill” or Charles Bronson as a vigilante in “Death Wish” that spawned several sequels.

Or it can get so incredibly convoluted like the Korean film, “Oldboy”, about a man locked up in a solitary prison for 15 years for no apparent reason. We’ve just seen a local film that disguises as a psychological thriller but which turns out to be just another tawdry tale of vengeance, “Untrue”. This review contains spoilers so if you have plans to watch it (though it’s not shown anymore in cinemas at this time), then stop reading. It is from Viva Films and we don’t know who gives the greenlight in doing their projects because they just had a recent movie that’s exactly like this, “Nuuk”.

Both “Nuuk” and “Untrue” are filmed on  location in distant countries, Greenland and Georgia. They're both flops. But, at least, it gave the cast and crew free travels to those exotic foreign lands.

Both also involve an incredibly intricate plan for revenge. In “Nuuk”, Aga Muhlach makes the disturbed Alice Dixson fall in love with him then he suddenly disappears. It turns out he has all it planned out to avenge the death of his daughter, who got so broken hearted after Alice’s son dumped her that she killed herself and even made a video of herself while committing suicide.

“Untrue” is about Mara (Cristine Reyes) and Joachim (Xian Lim), two Pinoys working in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, which used to be part of the USSR. In the first part, we see a badly beaten up Mara giving her story to a cop, saying her husband is a lunatic. In the second act, we see Joachim talking to his therapist, saying his wife is a lunatic. You'd think this is a "Rashomon" kind of film with he said/she said first person eyewitness accounts that differed radically. But don't be so presumptuous.

The third act unravels what happened before Tbilisi. It turns out that Xian is a perverted guidance counsellor in a high school where he seduces one of his students (Rhen Escano). His misdeed is really horrible as he even videos the act of perversion they do while she’s all tied up. The girl then loses her phone and their sex video is seen by everyone in school, so she hangs herself.

And guess what, Cristine Reyes turns out to be her sister. Actually, it’s easy to feel early on that she has a hidden agenda. From a plotting standpoint, this kind of maneuver is needed because to reveal too much too early would ruin the expected twist or surprise in the ending.

Cristine cooks up this very intricate and laborious plan of revenge against Xian. But when she gets to follow Xian to Georgia, five years have already transpired. Gosh, talk about not being able to let go and move on, when it’s not even been established how much she loves and cares for her sister.

Why did it take her so long before taking revenge? And why go to such great lengths where she’ll even pretend to love him, agree to marry him and be his wife, and even go on and have sex with him, when all the while, he repulses he and her goal is just to kill him?

Sobra namang kagagahan 'yan. We just can’t buy this dumb endgame. When the movie finally lays it all out, instead of the viewer feeling that the missing piece in a puzzle has finally been found, the result just translates into an ending that is just ludicrous to the extreme, making the movie a certified cinematic con job that actually lives up to its unappetizing title.

The same goes with Aga in “Nuuk” and with Helen Mirren in another recent movie we saw involving an elaborate revenge plan that is accomplished after several decades, “The Good Liar”. As Ian McKellen tells Helen in this movie: “Why go to all that trouble?” And we’d like to ask the characters played by Aga in “Nuuk” and Cristine in “Untrue” the same question: “Why exactly will you go to all that trouble? Aren’t their easier ways to take revenge?” This is particularly true in the case of Cristine as Mara. She went to such great lengths to find Xian and get his confidence, but in the end, she just attacks him directly while they’re inside the police station with the small sword she got from a prominent statue in Georgia. How stupid! Nagpakahirap ka tapos dun mo pa siya papatayin sa loob mismo ng police station! When there are so many other instances where she could have exacted revenge from him without any witnesses? Really idiotic!