BuyBust Blu-ray Review

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Busting the Drug War

BuyBust doesn’t have a hero. It’s a violent, cynical look at the Philippines drug war. The woman BuyBust draws as its central hero, Nina Manigan (Anne Curtis), shoots a suspected drug pusher point blank in the head. Asked what she’s doing, Manigan replies, “What’s right.”

Except for the introductory chapter, BuyBust takes place entirely within a favella. People live in homes made only of plywood. Seams in their plastic roofs stay together only because of torn duct tape. Police begin their raid with an example of dry, quiet tension, entering position to take down the village’s kingpin. BuyBust is building a case for social absurdity. Armed with guns worth more than any resident sees in their impoverished lives, the police seek the supposed source of the poverty, rather than a government seeking a more curative solution.

This is never a shy action film. It’s willing to depict beheadings by garden shears, stabbings by the dozens, a man smashed by a motorcycle, and faceless goons set ablaze by a cart of molotov cocktails. When in motion, BuyBust aims for an overwhelming, grisly entertainment value, a Filipino adaptation of The Raid. To be clear, most of BuyBust is in motion.

BuyBust adores long takes at the cost of speed, yet that pace better realizes the reality of these fights

Each fight carries a burly, erratic choreography, upending any feeling of safety. That goes for everyone. Dealers brawl with the cops, cops fend of villagers, villagers square up against dealers. Even kids stand in for their own sides, whether too young to understand or not. That’s what BuyBust wants; the drug war turns into a perpetual cycle of violence, free of sides or illusions of law. In spite of its more preposterous (at times unfortunate) action design, BuyBust feels wide ranging in intent.

To its benefit, BuyBust has an outstanding eye for action construction. One escape sequence runs two minutes, across rooftops in the rain with some 40-50 people involved in the melee, no cuts. BuyBust adores long takes at the cost of speed, yet that pace better realizes the reality of these fights. Everyone is tired as this overnight saga plays out.

The final images of BuyBust pan over the favela. A radio broadcast notes that police called the shootout a success with only 13 dead. By the time “13 dead” is spoken, at least 100 corpses pass beneath the camera. Still more pile up as the camera continues, then panning up to a downtown district. The skyscrapers reach toward dawn, anyone living or working in the city unaware of the death toll. Meanwhile, the drug war will continue ravishing those who most need to escape it. What a masterful statement.

Video

Erratic is the best descriptor for BuyBust. The visual side involves buckets of noise, brightened blacks, inconsistent detail, and other problems. Much of this exists at the source as the moments of clarity and density indicate. It’s clear the disc itself is capable of high-grade material.

Most of the presentation though is a murky, digitally gritty mess. Chroma noise creeps in, along with additional problems in the lighter blue shadows. Rare black levels do hide some of the muck, but only appear sporadically. There’s a weird anomaly around 21-minutes where horizontal lines run up the left side of the frame. During the finale, the screen crawls as if displayed on a low refresh rate CRT.

Cut away through most of those problems and what’s here is generally tolerable HD video. A smidgen of detail fights its way into the image. Some close-ups squeeze out noticeable definition. Certain scenes display hyper-saturation too as the LED string lights shine onto the action. While given an overall warm hue, primaries do break out and reflect off the rain-covered surfaces.

Audio

Choose between DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0; both of them fail. However, the 5.1 mix is obnoxiously artificial, overblown in dynamics with irritating fluctuations in volume. Surrounds over compensate every minor sound effect.

Switching to the stereo track, things simmer down. Channel separation offers some discrete effects. BuyBust still has issues with balance and range no matter the mix.

At times, the raw audio from the set sounds to be in use, which includes scratchy static from clothes rubbing against a hidden mic. Ambient sounds like shoes scuffing along a floor enter the mix, drowning out dialog. Gunfire varies from post-production, which like the dialog, is just another part of the on-set noise. It’s a mess.

Extras

A solid 30-minute making of and 27-minute Comic Con panel make up the bonus menu, both worth a watch.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

BuyBust
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

A Filipino take on The Raid, BuyBust uses an eclectic action style to show the overreaching impact of an international drug war.

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