PULP Studios’ first movie is finally here. But is Ma’am Chief worth the price of admission?
Slight spoilers for the movie ahead.
You probably know PULP as one of the country’s biggest concert producers in the country who helped pioneer the heavy metal and K-pop live experience in the Philippines. But after 25 years, the company is expanding to a new medium: movies. Recently, PULP launched PULP Studios, their latest endeavor in entertainment and storytelling to the format of the silver screen. And up first is Ma’am Chief: Shakedown In Seoul, a comedy that fittingly adds a good dose of Korean culture and stars for a cross-border police story.
Directed by Kring Kim (yes, that Kring Kim), the film follows policewoman Criselda Kaptan (Melai Cantiveros-Francisco) whose place in the force is shaken after a botched police operation causes the sacking of a good friend and fellow police officer. But when a new lead on the case pops up, she decides to take matters into her own hands as she sets out on a secret mission to South Korea, where she disguises herself as a tour guide to apprehend a dangerous fugitive and clear the name of her friend.
With everything that’s going on in the movie, it’s enough to turn heads. But before you head to the cinema to see this international police caper, we break down the things we loved and didn’t about PULP’s first-ever movie.
MELAI CANTIVEROS-FRANCISCO IS AN AMAZING LEAD STAR
Melai has always been a good actress and an exceptional comedian. It’s a talent that shines bright in Ma’am Chief. She radiates an energy that captures your attention and injects charisma into Criselda. As the lead star, Melai carries the film well and takes command of its oftentimes wacky nature. The comedian and actress is in her element here as she confidently navigates an admittedly simple story. She has the comedic chops to pull it off and also doesn’t disappoint in the more emotional beats of Criselda’s story. It’s over-the-top, wacky, and even self-deprecating in the best way possible.
THE COMEDY HITS, MOST OF THE TIME
Comedy is the bread and butter of Ma’am Chief, and for the most part, it delivers on that front. While it isn’t the smartest comedy you’ll see in Philippine cinema, it gets the job done with moments that can get you to laugh out loud in the movie theater. Most of the jokes do land, mainly thanks to Melai’s quick wit. If you’re looking for a fun movie to have a good laugh, Ma’am Chief is not a bad option. While the movie does get serious at times, it’s mainly a lighthearted romp through Seoul.
K-DRAMA AND K-POP FANS WILL GET A KICK OUT OF THE MOVIE
Given PULP’s pedigree in Korean entertainment, it would be expected at this point that their first movie would feature a good dose of Korean stars and callbacks. And if that’s what you’re looking for, you came to the right place. Aside from the fact that the majority of the movie is set in Seoul and Criselda is a K-drama and K-pop fan, Ma’am Chief also features cameos from Do Ji Han, Lee Seunggi, Rolling Quartz, and Yuju that any Hallyu fan can appreciate.
Their scenes lead to some of the best moments of the movie, a fight scene with Rolling Quartz playing in the background being a particular highlight. Ma’am Chief knows its audience and plays it up to its advantage. Also, we need more scenes of Melai and Lee Seunggi together.
THE MOVIE DOESN’T EXACTLY DO SOMETHING NEW TO THE FORMULA
If you got the vibe that Ma’am Chief was going to be more focused on having a good time than giving Philippine cinema a groundbreaking police story, you’re on the mark. For the most part, the film keeps it safe with a plot that sticks to the main beats of a typical police adventure and a structure that doesn’t stay far from the established troupes. Speaking of the story, it does lean on the generic side of a hero journey to redemption with a plot twist that you can see coming from kilometers away.
Where the movie tries to deviate is its inclusion of K-drama and K-pop elements, though your mileage may vary depending on how big of a fan you are. It’s a fun but at times predictable cop story. Also, it should be noted that the movie is not shy nor subtle about featuring PULP. From product placements, name drops, and even a cameo from Happee Sy-Go, you’re going to know it’s a PULP production.
THE SUPPORTING CAST IS HIT-AND-MISS
While Melai Cantiveros shines as the lead star, the same can’t be said for her co-stars. Alora Sasam’s Yas serves as a fun partner to Criselda, Karylle steals the scene whenever she’s on screen, and Jennica Garcia’s Joy Salazar brings the heart to the movie, but the rest end up embodying stereotypical characters. In particular, the Filipino tourists Criselda and Yas bring with them feel more like one-dimensional characters than a crew of seemingly random individuals you want to root for.
Bernadette Allyson Estrada, Dustine Mayores, Enzo Almario, Manel Sevidal, and Sela Guia play their roles competently, but it becomes clear that they are there to embody one-note archetypes. From the rich tita, wannabe K-pop idol, vlogger, and more, depth isn’t exactly abundant in these characters.
Overall, Ma’am Chief: Shakedown In Seoul is dumb fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a comedic crowd-pleaser that shines in some moments but falls in others. Melai Cantiveros-Francisco earns another W in a movie about a woman who realizes that charging into things head-first is not always the best idea. It combines women’s empowerment through a Hallyu fan’s lens which is interesting. But the movie’s pursuit of a lighthearted Seoul adventure has parts of it feeling like it needs more time to further develop. Still, if you’re looking for a movie to turn off your brain and have a good time, Ma’am Chief is a good option. Just check your expectations accordingly.
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