Embarking on a refreshing change of pace for Filipino cinema, Quark Henares’ “Keka” puts a playful and darkly nasty spin on the revenge genre. A rare pic from the archipelago that suggests potent influence from South Korean and HK moviemaking, this jaunt through the life of a young woman on a bloody mission will inevitably draw comparisons to the “Kill Bill” saga, though it was actually released locally last August before Quentin Tarantino’s first volume hit theaters. Lack of overt sex has depressed earnings in eros-driven market, but some offshore biz may pop up.
Speaking to an off-camera interlocutor, Keka (Katya Santos) –by day a computer tech service operator — explains that by night, she’s a killer. Her b.f. PJ (Jordan Santos) was brutally killed on campus by rich thugs in a competing frat house. When a rigged trial set the preppy suspects free, Keka began plotting revenge.
Keka’s geeky pal, Bhong (Vhong Navarro), reluctantly helps Keka when he realizes she means business. Their first mission is shot and staged with rain-soaked stylishness worthy of Wong Kar-wai and lenser Christopher Doyle, but with a mordant wit as a bonus.
Intro of youthful cop Jason (Wendell Ramos) appears a total detour, as he struggles to pop the question to his longtime g.f. and then gets dumped. But then, in a pure movie coincidence that works, Jason randomly meets Keka, and they gradually hit it off. Still, their brewing romance hardly slows down her murderous pace, not even a phone call from Jason during the middle of a kill.
“Keka” keeps viewers guessing about what sweet-faced Keka is capable of, and whether or not the lover or the detective in Jason will win out. But even as the pair’s fates seem to inevitably collide, Henares deploys clever cinematic devices — including a deliriously tasteless musical number populated mostly by singing dead guys — that undermine the norms of Filipino genre filmmaking.
The fun extends to the thesps, hardly brilliant but with a firm grasp on pic’s ironic/sarcastic spirit. Henares, the youngest among major Filipino helmers, displays full technical command alongside his clear pleasure with film form.