Gagamboy (Erik Matti, 2004), Harsh Times (David Ayers, 2004)
And here I was, thinking Pa-Siyam (Nine Days, 2004) was Erik Matti's best work--Matti, the director of such seminal works of Philippine Cinema as Ekis (Crossed, 1999), Dos Ekis (Double Cross, 2001), and Prosti (Prostitute, 2002)--one of I suppose you can say my favorite Filipino filmmakers, if only because he's given me endless opportunities for honing my critical blade.
Pa-Siyam showed what Matti was capable when he dropped his many affectations and concentrated on storytelling, reined in his self-indulgent style enough to serve the story more than itself; the result is pleasing, like De Palma doing a conventional action film (The Untouchables) or Cronenberg a neo-Western (A History of Violence) albeit on a lower, cruder level.
Harsh Times (David Ayers, 2005)
David Ayer's Harsh Times (2005) was reportedly based on his own experiences, and the language ("Whassup, dog?" "I wanna get fucked up") seems to reflect that (though Ayer's street profanity seems more mimetic than the kind of profane poetry that, say, David Mamet is capable of whipping up). He also manages to capture the boredom that exists between two men in a car (one of them simply weak, the other a developing psychopath), cruising around looking to get drunk, get laid, get high.
Beyond that--beyond the street realism, the surface texture and the sodium-arc street lighting (most of the picture, as with most noirs, takes place at night)--there's not much to be really said in favor of the movie. Ayer's self-admitted model was Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976) but I'd say it's just as useful if not more so to look at Scorsese' earlier Mean Streets (1973)--you can see Ayer trying to capture the same kind of 'slice of life' quality, create the same meandering narrative, evoke the same anguished search for salvation (or damnation, you're not quite sure which).