Manila is a city under siege, where gangs are in constant war against each other and the authorities secretly fund death squads. In such a world, young Toto (Timothy Castillo) is between heaven and hell as his older brother has been caught and the rest of the gang is expecting him to rat them out. A new path will be revealed to him, but it will lead to more violence and death.
Director Mikhail Red brings us the seedy underworld of gangs, drug trafficking and secret death squads. Toto’s life might be in danger whether he spills the beans to the police to save his brother or not, since the gang believes he will do that anyways. As he navigates that impossible decision, he runs into Irma (Eula Valdez) and Raul (Rocky Salumbides). Irma, once friends with his mother, feels some empathy for Toto. She will start training him to become a real killer.
What we get in Neomanila is city without law, or where the law has resorted to pure death. There’s no protection for Toto that will save him from the corruption around him. No magical solution is offered. It’s a city of kill or be killed. The bond between Irma and Toto is almost one of parent and child but it might not survive the harsh reality of what’s to come.
In a sense, everyone in the film seems trapped in their own misery. Toto can’t protect his brother or be with his girlfriend. Irma can’t look over Toto forever and both her and Raul must follow orders to kill whoever the authorities say must die. No one is safe, no one gets to run away from the city.
Recommended with reservations. This is not a slick film where the characters are stylish assassins packing the ultimate in technology and taking down villains trying to take over the world. It’s the real people with guns killing whoever their boss says to kill, getting away however they can and leaving anything and anyone behind. That includes any rare moment of happiness.
That will do for now.