As a glimpse into the underworld of small-time crooks in the district of Quiapo in Manila, Kurap is a little shortsighted -- the inferior successor of Tirador, a recent film that covered the same territory with more sweeping verve and detail. In Kurap, the plotting is brisk, but that's because of the many shortcuts and contrivances. But it has an intimate lead in Ambet (cutie Sherwin Ordonez), a petty thief with a rather poetic mission: To save his kid sister from impending blindness.
Director Roni Bertubin had also been vague about the nitty-gritty of the male prostitution underworld in his previous film Sikil, but he got away with a pained romantic center. In Kurap, a thorough insider's grasp -- of the milieu and the people -- is necessary but missing. Couldn't Ambet snitch on other criminals before those closest to him? The environment seems strangely limited. When it ends, in tragedy, there's a gaping sense of incompleteness. The stylish use of camera focus is a nice symbolic touch -- and also a completely motivated way of distorting sex images -- but overall, the craftsmanship is hit-and-miss.
If Kurap fails as a realistic depiction of a world, it does succeed as a homoerotic glossary of it. Apparently, all the criminals in Quiapo are good-looking men. Even the resident mute is a hunk (Rico Lazaro), who's also a closet homosexual, who makes time for bare-ass fucking with carwash hottie/thief Jeff Luna. The other studs in the gang are Christian Burke, Dexter Castro, and Nikolai Villamor. Everyone is hot. Most magnetic is star Sherwin Ordonez, who also shows ass and fucks with a woman. His personality flits from friendly to hostile to dropping trousers for a blowjob just because he knows the other guy wants it (Jojit Lorenzo, as a news videographer). You may call it character inconsistency, or just among the movie's many unexplained whims, but the actor is so adorable, I'm at least kept interested.