Watch List Image

Watch List

By Andrew Stover | September 1, 2020

Maria agrees to become an informant, and she’s trained by a flinty man named Alvin (an eerily composed Arthur Acuña), an undercover cop who behaves as an anti-drug vigilante. Alvin teaches her how to shoot a gun and uphold an elaborate government-sanctioned operation. Basically, Maria will have dealers sell to her, and Alvin will catch the dealer in the act. Except there’s no arrest made, only unmerciful judgment compiled of murder and duplicity. Maria is consumed by a lawless world of turpitude that’s helmed by those with badges and governmental consent, to the point that she reluctantly becomes entangled in it. 

Watch List is a very sober and disheartening thriller that foregrounds a distressed mother who is constantly digging herself into a hole, though she yearns to escape but sees no other option that won’t result in a dismal fate. While Maria’s downward spiral into an underworld of dirty cops is meteoric, Maria’s underlying intentions are fueled by the pursuit of justice and money (she’s a single mother with no job prospects). 

“…to convey her character’s dwindling morality and boiling guilt through taut body language…”

Alessandra de Rossi’s engagingly restrained performance as Maria is deeply impressive. She inherits the nuance required to convey her character’s dwindling morality and boiling guilt through taut body language and frightened eyes. Throughout, Maria desperately tries to preserve any ounce of humanity she has left. Unfortunately, the lucrative gig continues to eat away at Maria, and her eldest child is being influenced by his erring cousin, who dabbles in illicit activities. Maria’s moral dilemma remains wholly relevant and potent, courtesy of de Rossi’s hypnotic presence and Ben Rekhi’s gritty execution. 

Under the veneer of promoting morality and sobriety, Rodrigo Duterte’s “War on Drugs” has its bleak implications, proving to be a vicious method in controlling the drugs, culprits, and addicts on the street. Ben Rekhi’s Watch List effectively reveals why the practices of Operation Tokhang should be denounced by exposing the barbarity and blatant partiality associated with it.

Daniella Nowitz’s purposefully intrusive cinematography magnifies Maria’s irking sense that her world is closing in on her. Paired with a fittingly measured pace and a trepidatious atmosphere, Watch List is an immensely somber and modestly urgent thriller that won’t make for a pleasant experience. Howbeit, Watch List, for all of its predictability and misery, is a film embedded with undiluted sorrow and injustice that’s impossible to check off as another self-destructive drug thriller (though, to some extent, it is just that). 

Watch List (2020)

Directed: Ben Rekhi

Written: Ben Rekhi, Rona Lean Sales

Starring: Alessandra de Rossi, Jess Mendoza, Arthur Acuña, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

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"…effectively reveals why the practices of Operation Tokhang should be denounced..."

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