HBO Go Asia just concluded the release of the Filipino series, OTJ (On the Job) which managed to turn heads as soon as it was announced on the platform. It was intriguing news primarily for two reasons — OTJ being the first Filipino show to stream on HBO and the mystery behind the direction of the show. I was initially perplexed to hear the news regarding the On the Job series — confused if it was just an extended version of the 2013 film. Ultimately I opted to check it out and to my surprise, I was more than pleased with my decision to do so.
On the Job HBO Series: A Brief Overview
As mentioned, On the Job or also abbreviated as OTJ, was first released back in 2013 and is directed by Erik Matti. In order to provide some clarity as to what the On the Job series experience provides — think of the first two episodes as the extended director’s cut for the 2013 film and the episodes to follow make up the 3-hour long sequel entitled On the Job: The Missing 8. It was this very sequel that was first shown in the Venice Film Festival which also earned John Arcilla (Heneral Luna) an award for best actor.
The entire series dives into the nitty-gritty and complicated nature of Philippine politics. This show is a social commentary regarding the complexities in governing bodies and the men and women behind them which is done so brilliantly in a completely expressive art form. Throughout the 6 episodes, we follow the corruption that blatantly occurs within the government and institutions such as the local police force and journalistic platforms. What adds complexity to the story is the addition of characters who have been locked up in jail while serving as contractual assassins brought out to clean up loose ends for the political overlords. The Missing 8 storyline however zeroes in on a corrupt journalist’s journey as his world, morals, and ideals shift when 8 of his co-workers, including his close friend and his child, mysteriously vanish.
On The Job Series: Spoiler Warnings
There may be a couple of broad strokes that may tend to be spoiler-y but for the most part, will veer away from spoilers as we will leave out any major plot points that may ruin your viewing experience. It’s also good to take note that this review will focus more on The Missing 8 storyline which is made up of the last four episodes.
Continuity: A Shared Universe and Story
The first two episodes contain the exact storyline from the first film with a few added scenes here and there. This serves as a much-needed refresher on an already amazing story. Gears shift by the time that the third episode kicks in as we are taken far from the underbelly of Manila and into the rural and seemingly peaceful provincial town of La Paz. The transition admittedly may have been abrupt but the thematic message provides a sense of familiarity and unity that help paint an even bigger picture behind how deep the corruption in the government actually goes. The appearances of characters from the first film also help with the continuity of the entire show — proof of a single unified story that occurs in different groups of people.
Amazing Performances by an All-Star Cast
In the last four episodes, we are introduced to new characters who find themselves in similar predicaments as those in Manila — all of whom are portrayed by amazing actors and actresses in the Philippine film industry. OTJ spares no expense in talent with stars such as Gerald Anderson, Joel Torre, and Joey Marquez in the first two episodes and Christopher De Leon, John Arcilla, Lotlot de Leon, and Dennis Trillo just to name a few in the Missing 8 story arc. Arcilla’s performance is worth mentioning as we follow the journey of a man whose ideals and principles are put to the test. The character development and subtle nuances in acting from the entire cast are just sublime as it all adds a sense of realism and depth in emotions.
A Cinematic Experience
Philippine films and shows have definitely gone a long way aesthetically especially with the more indie-style options. OTJ provides an opportunity for a Filipino series to step out of the typical “teleserye” branding both in terms of its story and its visuals. Every element in the film from its color grading, close up and long lingering shots down to its musical scoring and choice are well thought of. Even Matti’s choices of songs are so spectacular as they perfectly capture the mood of OTJ. All in all, every choice stylistically for OTJ adds another level of craftsmanship that pairs beautifully with the message of the series.
Message: A Bold Statement
At the heart of the story is a very powerful, timely, and transcendent message that serves as an introspection into the dirty nature of power. The message and story of OTJ however isn’t your typical weekend show to binge-watch, especially if you are looking to destress. Being a politically rich film, there are a lot of elements to OTJ that begs viewers to step beyond a state of pure consumption but into a position of self-reflection and evaluation. OTJ has the ability to move its viewers with so much emotion which at times leaves us totally speechless and disgusted by what we see. It’s unnerving because of how real it is — should we forget, every episode reminds us that these stories are indeed based on actual events and stories.
On The Job Series Review Verdict
This is a show that should push us to have open conversations and assess our current political atmosphere. There is an overall serious tone that borders on becoming heavy and tough to swallow at times. Despite such a mood that the show delivers, it is definitely one that everyone (especially every Filipino citizen) should see at least once. It is a cinematic experience that has the possibility to gain even more accolades. OTJ is simply heart-racing, impactful, emotional, and engaging from start to finish.
With the 2022 Philippine presidential elections just around the corner, the On the Job series couldn’t have come out in a more perfect time than ever. It’s provocative and bold in its message but one done in a captivatingly artistic manner. OTJ is definitive proof of the power and influence of art forms especially that of films and tv shows to provide meaningful options that will touch on both our emotions and intellect.
The stories in OTJ are still far from over as seen in the ending and based on director Matti’s confirmation that a third and final installment is definitely in the works. In the meantime, despite a cliffhanger of an ending, the OTJ series which is now available on HBO Go Asia is the must-see Filipino flick of the year so far — one that you must stream immediately.
Here’s another Filipino film worth checking out as well: My Amanda Review: An Unexpectedly Great Filipino Flick