Once upon a time, Lily (Cristine Reyes) was one of the most feared cartel assassins in the Philippines. Working with her lover, Kaleb (Ivan Padilla), Lily killed a lot of people and she did so with the an unstoppable ruthlessness. However, she soon grew tired of the killing. When she told Kaleb that she wanted out, he told her that there was no way to get out. Lily decided to prove him wrong by betraying the cartel, faking her own death, and building a new life for herself.
Years later, Lily is now knows as Maria. She’s a wife and a mother. While her new husband is enthusiastic about a politician who says that he’s going to do whatever needs to be done to put the cartel out of business, Maria is always careful to remain apolitical. In fact, she does nothing that might bring attention to herself.
Unfortunately, disappearing is easier said than done. The cartel learns of her new location and Kaleb and his men are sent to kill her and her family. They easily manage to kill both her husband and her daughter. However, Maria escapes. While Kaleb is forced to deal with the machination of a rival member of the cartel, the brutal Victor (KC Montero), Maria once again enters the criminal underworld. She now only has one mission and that’s revenge. She’s going to kill anyone who had anything to do with the death of her family….
Earlier tonight, I watched the Filipino film Maria on Netflix. It’s pretty much a standard revenge thriller. The action scenes and the over-the-top violence were clearly inspired by films like The Raid and John Wick. One could just as easily replaced the cartel with the Russian mafia and Maria’s family with a collection of house pets and then sold that film as being about John Wick’s long-lost sister. However, Maria didn’t have any of the winking self-awareness that makes both The Raid and the John Wick films so memorable. Really, the only thing that Maria has to distinguish itself from other action films is that the lead character is female but, at times, that’s enough. Even though the whole “action girl” character has become a bit of a cliche in the years since Kill Bill and the original Resident Evil, there’s still something undeniably satisfying about watching a woman kick ass. If nothing else, this makes Maria an appropriate film to watch if you’re having a bad day and you need the catharsis that comes from watching some really bad dudes not get a fair trial.
The film itself is a bit oddly paced. The first fourth of the film is a bit-heavy on torture scenes with one in particular being drawn out to a painful degree. Things pick up once Maria starts beating people up and Christine Reyes gives a sympathetic and highly-charged performance in the title role. Maria is not a particularly challenging film, nor is it one that you’ll necessarily remember two hours after you’ve watched it. That said, for what it is — i.e., a modest revenge flick, it gets the job done. Just like Maria!