‘Ang Panday’ opens with an action sequence showing Flavio II (Jeric Raval) in an intense confrontation with the ‘aswangs’. This happens while newborn Flavio III is being rushed to safety, away from the reach of Lizardo’s monstrous creatures. This scene, shot almost entirely in black in white, gives the impression that an interesting take on the iconic Filipino legend, is about to unfold.
Fast forward to present, Flavio III (Coco Martin) has grown up into a strong young man and now roaming the streets of Tondo, Manila, getting involved in gang quarrels that often get him end up in jail. His adorable grandparents (Jaime Fabregas and Gloria Romero) have opposing views on how to deal with street fights, but they keep Flavio’s sense of morality, alive. In another part of the city, an old man in cane, tracks him using a magical book that lights up when the heir to the legendary ‘balaraw’ (dagger) is nearby. He finally stumbles upon Flavio, warns him that forces of the devil have reached the city, and that the world needs him to be its savior. The old man insists Flavio must venture to a mystical world to claim the balaraw, which is deemed to be the only weapon which can kill the immortal Lizardo (Jake Cuenca), and can only be wielded by Flavio, who is next in line in the Panday bloodline. Soon enough, Flavio finds himself thrown into an age-long war which has been waged against Lizardo and his evil forces, by the previous wielders of the balaraw.
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It is interesting to know that Martin’s version of the iconic hero is not a retelling of the classic pinoy lore, but actually a continuation of the original saga. It is revealed in the story that after the first Panday passed on the balaraw to his son, Flavio II, the new wielder decided to live a normal life in the mortal world, and left the powerful weapon to the safe-keeping of the fairies. And now that the evil entity Lizardo has found a new host, it is now up to Flavio III to rise up to the challenge of becoming humanity’s salvation. His fight begins at home where Lizardo’s appendages have successfully got their way inside. Across the metropolis, terror has cloaked the city in haunting darkness, and Flavio’s newfound power may not be enough.
Debuting as a film director in ‘Ang Panday’, Martin actually pulls off some commendable efforts in this new reiteration of the popular pinoy character, which was first immortalized by the late Fernando Poe Jr. Cinematography-wise, ‘Ang Panday’ delivers impressively, showcasing breathtaking panoramic shots and effective camera-works. As a viewer, it is easy to understand that Martin is a newbie at the job, tending to do experimental choices, most of which funny, in the film. There are a couple of scenes that do not add up well to the story development; one may think whether their presence or absence would make a difference in the plot. There is a gay beauty pageant to which the film spends a considerable amount of its air time, and there is a song and dance number to serenade a woman whom Flavio is enamored with, both feeling like just a filler between critical moments in the film. Some scrupulous attention to details and impressively-choreographed action scenes would later on make-up for such wrong choices. On the other hand, Martin, as an actor, maintains his comic allure in the film while fully committing himself to being a real action star, his charismatic appeal further bolstered by sophisticated fight sequences he flawlessly delivered.
On the whole, ‘Ang Panday’ is surprisingly a good film, entertaining and effective even. There are some questionable parts, but if one would think that they are just earnest efforts to turn the film into a genuine family film, then such intent gets a pass. 3.5/5 ratings.