Before tackling the myriad of overwhelmingly positive qualities of the film, let me just put them in simple terms: Maria is one of the best films mainstream cinema has produced in recent years.
The Viva Films’ offering, which stars Cristine Reyes in the title role, is nothing short of stunning shots, dramatic lighting, and impressive action sequences. It displays impeccable action choreography and better acting skills — from the main character down to support roles — that is just right for the emotional requirement of the plot. The lead star is just so sexy, even if she’s fully clothed. And if you’d ever choose to put your bet on Maria, you’re not going to lose.
A film by Pedring A. Lopez, Maria follows the story of a former cartel assassin named Lily (Cristine) who fakes her own death after an unfulfilled mission that earns the wrath of her organization. She flees to a distant province where she completely transforms her life. Changing her name to Maria, she meets Bert (Guji Lorenzana), a respectable businessman who becomes her husband. They have a daughter named Mina.
Maria’s peaceful life is cut short when the cartel learns of her whereabouts. Kaleb (Ivan Padilla), the man whose orders she didn’t follow in the past, tracks her down right inside her home. Failing to protect her family, she returns to a life of violence with revenge on her mind.
Cristine shows how badass she can get as she takes on the title role. She underwent rigorous training and was obviously hurt while shooting a major fight scene, yet the actress remained unperturbed as seen in her Instagram story showing the numerous bruises on her arms and legs.
“Cristine handles the fights with almost 90 percent of all her stunts without doubles,” says the director.
For the past 15 years, Cristine has done a lot of comedy and drama films and a few horror movies. Maria is her big screen comeback after Abay Babes.
In an interview found on Film Combat Syndicate.com, the actress says, “It’s definitely the most challenging thing I’ve done in my career. I’m super proud of it…”
She also narrates how Viva gave her this project. “They felt strongly about the material and thought I’d be a good fit for the role. I guess they figured it would speak to me on many levels – as an actress, as a mother in real life, and as a martial arts enthusiast. And they were correct. I loved the script when I read it.”
Being a fan of the ‘80s action, Lopez says that he “wanted to bring it back, (but) put it in a modern setting”, and to “utilize Filipino martial arts” which is seen in Hollywood movies like the Bourne franchise.
Cristine exalts the director for his vision, saying, “I like his style. He has a vision and he really wants that vision to really happen…You feel that he loves his project.”
”It’s about time to show the world that Filipino filmmakers can also do excellent action films,” adds Cristine. “Even more exciting that these movies are being fronted by strong female characters. The world needs to know that Filipinas also kick butt!”
Prior to this, VIVA Films already produced an intense and superbly executed action film centering on a female lead. BuyBust, starring Anne Curtis as a PDEA agent, became the talk of the town when it was shown in cinemas last August 2018. The fight choreographer/fight director for this film was Sonny Sison, the same one for Maria. He also worked with Lopez in Nilalang.
“From the perspective of a fight choreographer, it is nice to see your lead actress not just commit in doing the moves but also infuses the emotional content. That’s really important where action is concerned…you are really able to emote the feeling of what’s going on in the fight at the same time,” says choreographer and fight director Sonny Sison.
Maria also stars KC Montero, Jennifer Lee, Andrea del Rosario, Cindy Miranda, Freddie Webb, and Ronnie Lazaro. From VIVA Films, BlackOps Studios Asia, and PsyOps, it opens in cinemas today nationwide.