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Film / BuyBust

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BuyBust is a 2018 Filipino action-thriller film co-written and directed by Erik Matti.

Nina Manigan (Anne Curtis) is a decent, honorable cop who joins a PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) squad after an operation gone wrong kills everyone in her old squad except herself, leading her to be labeled unfairly as a traitor, or "Hudas" (Judas). Shortly after joining the new squad, the entire team, as well as another squad led by Dirty Cop Rudy dela Cruz (Lao Rodriguez), goes on a mission to take out notorious drug lord Biggie Chen (Arjo Atayde) in a decrepit slum area called Gracia ni Maria ("Mary's Grace"), only for the mission to go horribly wrong almost from the get-go, as Chen's numerous thugs and a plethora of angry villagers, among other factors, make it almost impossible for the squads to make it out alive.


Some critics have seen the movie as being supportive of the drug war conducted under President Rodrigo Duterte.

The film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The Ace: Rico Yatco. As he's played by MMA star Brandon Vera, he's not afraid to use an array of octagon-approved moves to take out Chen's henchmen and allies. His immense size and strength also makes him nearly indestructible, and he survives many things, including multiple gunshot wounds, that would otherwise kill another police officer. Until he is eventually shot in the head.
  • Action Girl: Nina Manigan is this trope in spades.
  • Affably Evil: Alvarez. He starts out as the proverbial "good cop" to dela Cruz's foul-mouthed, physically abusive "bad cop" when the two senior officers are interrogating informant Teban. As it turns out, Chen's big reveal is that Alvarez is the number one "Judas" on the force.
  • Advertisement:
  • Alliterative Title: BuyBust.
  • Bald of Evil: Rudy dela Cruz.
  • Battle Couple: Alda and Bernie Lacson.
  • Blatant Lies: At the end of the film, a news report says that 13 people, including policemen, suspects, and other casualties, died in the siege of Gracia ni Maria. It is obviously much, much more than 13, possibly way more than 100, as further driven home by the overhead shot of all the dead bodies in the slum area.
  • Brooding Girl, Gentle Boy: Manigan with Yatco.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • The woman Solomon gives his gun to as he declares a manhunt and the girl next to her turn out to be his wife and his elder daughter. The wife fires the first shot at Chongki when Solomon and the mob decide to kill both sides. Sparing the daughter is the only reason why Manigan lives once she captures Chen.
    • The motorcycle riders who kill Santos in the second fight sequence turn out to be the Tondo Kids who nearly kill Manigan, Yatco, and Teban when they hole up in a safehouse.
  • Crapsack World: The entire barrio of Gracia ni Maria qualifies as this. If the residents aren't under Chen's employ, they're intensely distrustful of, and oftentimes violent toward cops. It doesn't help that there are many drug labs and seedy bars/possible prostitution dens in the area.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Yatco has two kills that qualify.
  • Dirty Cop: Early on, it's established that dela Cruz is the obvious example, but toward the end, Manigan realizes, thanks to Chen's comment about dela Cruz being far from the only "Judas" in the force, that she's a very rare exception in an police force full of them.
  • Downer Ending: It wouldn't be an Erik Matti film if the ending wasn't a downer in one way or another. In the end, practically everyone is dead, except for Manigan.
  • Event Title: Refers to an undercover operation by narcotics detectives to catch unsuspecting drug dealers.
  • Fair Cop: The main characters are good looking men and women.
  • Final Girl: Manigan is literally this.
  • First-Name Basis: Averted for most characters and only comes into play for characters with personal relationships with another, such as Alda and Lacson, Manigan and Yatco, and Chen and Alvarez.
  • Gentle Giant: Yatco, who exudes a laid-back, soft-spoken demeanor, except when he's sticking it to the bad guys.
  • Last-Name Basis: Almost all the cops call each other by their last names, with very occasional use of first names.
  • Le Parkour: The characters make use of technical jumps and leaps.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Yatco. It takes a Boom, Headshot! to finally bring him down.
  • Made of Iron: Yatco suffers from multiple beatings, stabbings, electrocution, possible drowning, and still shrugs it all off.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Biggie Chen, being that he is established from the start as the film's Big Bad. Until he reveals that there is someone in charge who surprisingly fits the billing better than he does – ostensible good cop Alvarez.
    • Chongki, who is Chen's second-in-command. His name is a Filipino slang for marijuana.
    • Manok, a perpetually stoned, cowardly member of Chen's gang who loves cracking wise, and is only tough when he's got an army of his fellow gun-toting henchmen behind him. The word "manok" translates to "chicken" (as in the animal) in Tagalog.
  • One-Man Army: Discussed and downplayed.
    • Yatco is able to fend off most of the mob when he tries to buy Manigan and Teban time to escape, but dies from a Boom, Headshot! The only reasons he survived until then were his Bulletproof Vest and physique.
    • Manigan is able to perform the fight in the trope below, but suffers severe injuries afterwards. It's made clear that she is in no condition to fight in close quarters against several enemies afterwards. If it hadn't been for her Wouldn't Hurt a Child moment, reflexes, and shooting skills, she would have died either trying to get to Biggie or leaving with him.
    Lacson: There's no such thing as a one-man army, Manigan.
  • The Oner: Near the end of the night, Manigan fights back an army of the residents of Gracia on the roofs of the slums in a three-minute long sequence, all in one take.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: "Boss" Chongki. He's short in stature, skinny and haggard-looking due to years of hard living, and his hair is graying. But he can more than hold his own in any fight (not surprising, as he's played by martial arts expert Levi Ignacio), even if it means doing most of the damage when he and his thugs kill the tall, burly police officer Iggy Hizon early on in the film, marking Manigan's squad's first casualty. In fact, he only dies near the end of the film, right before the big confrontation between Manigan and Chen, and only because of Friendly Fire.
  • Red Herring: Dela Cruz as the Judas who set up the bust. It's actually Alvarez.
  • Sadistic Choice: At one point, Manigan is forced to choose between helping Yatco fight off two civilians after falling through a roof or saving Elia from the mob. She chooses Yatco.
  • Shared Universe: Implied to have this with On the Job, since the druglord Biggie Chen's name also cropped up there. Erik Matti directed both films.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Manigan.
  • Smug Snake: Dela Cruz shows shades of this when he tells Manigan that the squad dying was their fault and not his, assuming that he's too valuable alive. Manigan shoots him anyway.
  • Sole Survivor: Manigan's backstory. And again by the end of the film.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: An up-tempo, jaunty Filipino folk song plays in the background during Manigan and Chen's big confrontation.
  • Stern Teacher: Squad leader Bernie Lacson. In the introduction to the film, he angrily lectures Manigan, then fires a blank at her for not being a team player during a training exercise. Later on, he takes her aside and assures her that he's on her side – she just needs to cooperate with the rest of the squad.
  • Symbolism: The entire film is considered to be a critique of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, an initiative that has killed many, allegedly including several innocent lives, since he was sworn in as president in 2016. The corrupt senior officers can be seen as representations of Duterte and former Philippine National Police Chief Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, while the angry residents of Gracia ni Maria are widely believed to be representations of Duterte's die-hard supporters, who have been known to cyberbully and dogpile critics of his administration, among other overzealous acts of support for the controversial leader.
  • Together in Death: Alda and Lacson.
  • Vigilante Man: After Chongki kills an elderly friend of his simply because his cell phone's ringtone played at the wrong time, a resident named Solomon, who had just buried a daughter who was apparently killed by Chen's men, decides to take the law in his own hands and leads an army of vigilantes determined to take Chen, Chongki, and the rest of the bad guys out.
  • Wham Line:
    Manigan: Who is Judas?
    Biggie Chen: Which one?
  • What the Hell, Hero?: When Manigan, furious upon seemingly confirming that he set her old squad to be killed before throwing her under the bus, shoots dela Cruz dead at point-blank range. She gets sternly rebuked by Yatco, who scolds her for breaking protocol.
    Yatco: You're not the law.