★★★★☆Sean Ellis' Filipino drama Metro Manila (2013) took home the Best British Independent Film award at the BIFAs last December, although you'd be forgiven for not recognising its homegrown credentials. Set in a foreign capital, with dialogue primarily in Tagalog (which the director doesn't speak), it may be a far cry from a kitchen sink drama, but demonstrates the success a number of British filmmakers - including Gareth Evans, director of The Raid (2011) and The Raid 2: Berandal (2014) - are achieving with a wider canvas in locales where budgets stretch further. Ellis brought small crews onto the city streets, telling the story of a desperate, destitute family starting over.
Ellis' gritty realisation of Manila's mean streets certainly won't have won him many friends over on the Filipino tourist board. The British director shows the city with a similar eye - but a harsher gleam - to that of Michael Mann's LA in Heat (1995). Also winning is supporting actor John Arcilla as Oscar's lively mentor, Ong, whose honest cop heart has been rotted away by the lack of prospects in the hopelessly downtrodden capital. That's not to say that Ellis' eye is purely trained on thrills. The director of Cashback (2006), a far less ambitious work, is refreshingly more daring here. What begins as a socially aware, artful rags-to-riches tale is a different beast by its finale; half-The Asphalt Jungle (1950), half-Memento (2000), with a twist that's somehow both unexpected and unequivocally satisfying.