In the year 1992, the Philippines was shamed and dishonoured when the Little League baseball team of Zamboanga City, representing the Philippines, was discovered to have used illegal players during their championship run in the Little League World Series. The team was soon stripped of its title, and all medals, trophies, and cash prizes were confiscated. Over 20 years later, director Gil Portes revisits the scandal in his film ‘Liars’, which is a stylized retelling of the infamous event.
‘Liars’ revolves around the lives of best friends and teammates Dante Quirino (John Michael Bonapos) and Ato Macapagal (Jan Harley Hicana), impoverished children living in the gloomy area of Smokey Mountain, whose favorite thing in the world is the game of baseball. Things seem to be going well for them when their team successfully wins the national series and qualifies for an international competition in Taipei, Taiwan. However, things take a turn for the worse when their head coach, obsessed with the idea of winning and earning a large paycheck, decides to illegally replace Dante and two of his teammates with older, more athletic boys. Ato and Dante’s friendship is further tested when reporter Eloise (Alessandra de Rossi) discovers the truth, and reveals to the world the team’s deception.
The film contains a dramatic story that delivers a powerful, if not slightly overdone, message regarding the importance of honesty and playing fair. The film’s plot features a realistic look into the lives of impoverished street children, and is interesting and well delivered. The plot is complemented by the films clever storytelling, which makes good use of flashbacks and flash-forwards to effectively portray both the major events of the film, and their eventual aftermaths.
The main reason the film succeeds in portraying its plot is its well-developed characters, particularly the duo of Dante and Ato. Both characters are well-rounded, and they are the kind of characters that viewers can easily invest in. The two also maintain an extremely interesting dynamic throughout the movie. The characters are aided by the acting efforts of John Michael Bonapos and Jan Harley Hicana; while the acting seemed forced or contrived at times, the boys still managed to successfully portray the emotions of each character on screen, and the overall effort of the two young actors is still to be applauded.
However, the movie is not without its faults. There were several factors of the film that acted as distractions, taking away from the overall message of the film. One of these factors is the script, which seemed a little uninspired at times. There were several instances wherein the dialogue seemed too simple or too contrived. In other cases, it seemed unnecessary altogether. While the young actors did their best, they still sometimes faltered in their delivery of lines, which only further revealed the script’s weak points. These issues negatively affected the film.
Another negative element found in ‘Liars’ is the subpar cinematography used. While there are some scenes wherein the camera is placed at ideal positions, there are also certain scenes wherein the camera makes an error. Sometimes, cameras are not placed at the most ideal location, while sometimes, they are held for too long, leading to scenes that are overlong and that can sometimes ruin the pacing of the film.
The movie suffers from special effects that are unexceptional and mediocre. Things like rain, or a shooting star, come off as obviously engineered by a special effects team, which takes away from the authenticity of such moments. The worst case is when the special effects are so obviously fake that it comes off as humorous, which is definitely not what the movie aims to do. The special effects used in the movie are more of a distraction than anything else.
‘Liars’ is an emotional film with well-played characters that is bogged down by more basic things like script, cinematography, and special effects. However, despite the distractions that the movie presents, it is still a heartfelt story that revolves around friendship, faith, and truth. While the film may not be considered an emotional masterpiece, especially due to the aforementioned shortcomings, it still worth catching.