ROBIN PADILLA: COMEBACK OR DEATH WISH?
Robin Padilla, once known as the baddest boy of Philippine movies, once more grabbed the headlines with a death-defying car stunt which went awry.
Before the cameras rolled to shoot the scene, he purportedly insisted on signing away his life with a waiver to Mommy Rose Flaminiano of FLT Films, producer of his new movie TULAK NG BIBIG, KABIG NG DIBDIB, a Deo Fajardo movie which casts him opposite Maricel Soriano.
True to his reckless ways, Robin's stunt at the Cultural Center of the Philippines grounds almost turned into another tragedy. His speeding car flew into the air, flipped and landed on its roof. Robin was trapped, hurt, and was taken straight to the Manila Doctors' Hospital . Free as a bird is he, but folks are wondering whether Robin Padilla will regain his former stature as a big time movie star.
Even as he adjusts to his new found freedom, Robin seeks to rebuild his life anew outside the penitentiary after having received a conditional pardon from President Ramos, thanks to the efforts of sympathetic politicians who succeeded in lowering the penalty for illegal possession of firearms.
Before the May 11 elections, Padilla was busy with campaign sorties, eager to show his gratitude to the solons who helped shorten his stay in Muntinglupa, among them LAKAS-NUCD re-electionist Senator Ramon Revilla and defeated Liberal Party senatorial aspirant Raul Daza.
Wherever Robin made an appearance, the crowds turned out en masse for a look at the former "Bad Boy of Philippine Cinema" whose brushes with the law, landed him in a jail term that kept him away from the public eye for nearly three years.
One could not help but wonder whether the star-struck crowds gathered at political rallies will also troop to the movie houses when Robin returns to the big screen. The bustle of election fever is over now, and Robin has no choice but to face uncertain prospects as a come-backing actor in a movie industry besieged by financial woes and foreign competition.
"This is an industry that easily forgets. There's always a new star waiting in the wings. Out of sight, is out of mind where local movies are concerned. Robin Padilla is no exemption. In the last two years, he has become just another face in the news." That was the prognosis of several insiders from Regal, Premiere and other movie companies who are also struggling to survive the current market slump facing the local movies.
Robin Padilla's release from jail had brought new optimism to some sectors of the local film industry. Some see him as a potential messiah who will drive away the doldrums plaguing the local movie business.
Even before he left Muntinglupa, Lily Yu Monteverde's Regal Films, a movie company famous for having produced some of the country's biggest commercial and critical blockbusters during the past 30 years raised the possibility of a comeback movie through informal negotiations that apparently fell through.
Although no specific reasons were officially stated, it has been obvious over the past two years that Regal Films has become increasingly cautious in financing expensive film projects because of shrinking box office share of Filipino movies.
In 1997, the company spearheaded the making of pito-pito movies to scrimp on production costs. Pito-Pito movies complete principal photography within a week and cost no more than 3.5 million pesos.
However, Regal occasionally gambles on Bong Revilla and Rosanna Roces flicks even if these end up more expensive than their usual run of the mill fare in the hope that the box office pull of these stars will turn in profits.
Surely, a Robin Padilla starrer will prove to be a costly proposition. Aside from Padilla's multi-million peso talent fee, the project will an action-drama movie which will surely cost more than 10 million pesos. On top of these, there is the expensive promotional blitz which will eat up a few more millions. In light of these, it wasn't surprising than nothing came out of the proposed Robin Padilla project for Regal.
However, two other giant film companies, Viva Films, and FLT Films see things differently. Together, they have become improbable allies with the avowed goal of resurrecting Robin's career. One of them, Viva Films, produced some of the biggest blockbusters of the 90s, including Robin Padilla's big hits with Sharon Cuneta and Vina Morales.
Robin's movies racked up record grosses of 50 million pesos or more during their two week Metro Manila run. It also raked in rentals by the millions during the provincial run. So phenomenal were the grosses that Robin Padilla, became the reigning box office king of local movies during the early 90s.
Robin's star grew to mythical proportions as his impresario Deo Fajardo and the publicity machine of his home studio hyped his image as the "Bad Boy of Philippine Movies". Robin's trouble making and womanizing became the stuff of pulp tabloids, fan magazines and gossip shows which fed the country a never-ending stream of stories about the latest controversies involving him, his family and his women.
Riding high at the top of the world, he thought he was untouchable. After all, he had many friends in high places. The party abruptly ended when Robin was convicted of the crime of illegal possession of firearms and was remanded to Muntinglupa to serve what was initially a 17 to 21 year jail term.
Unable to make another movie for Viva, Robin's legal expenses continued to pile up. In desperation, his mother, Eva Carino, sought the assistance of the Flaminiano family of FLT Films.
FLT Films offered to produce "Anak, Pagsubok Lamang" a film biography that attempted to cast Robin and his troubles in a sympathetic light. The project embroiled Robin and FLT Films in a messy legal squabble with Viva Films which claimed that Robin had no business appearing in projects produced by other film outfits since he had signed an exclusive contract with Viva.
Although released after much delay, the movie still managed to attract some public attention. However, it no longer had the box office impact of Robin's earlier blockbusters as the tide of public sympathy had clearly turned against Robin.
Presently, FLT Films plans to return Robin to the limelight. Neither cost or effort to promote this crucial project. There are no pretensions to critical acclaim, this is purely a business proposition to maximize returns on Robins reputedly 10 million peso talent fee
Yet it is a total gamble for FLT Films whose subsidiary, Skorpion films regularly grinds out cheap sexy quickies. Productions values center around spectacular stunts. Only if Padilla's magic remains will he be able to recapture the movie going public's imagination. Until then, big Hollywood blockbusters will continue to reign at the tills.
In fact, bookers, checkers and marketing experts have been quick to point out that the combined grosses of "Tomorrow Never Dies" and "Titanic" exceeded the gross of all local releases since January this year. Ask the average ticket seller on any Wednesday opening how a local release is doing, and the typical reply you get is "Mahina."
FLT, Manny Valera and Deo Fajardo lead a pack of Robin diehards who assert with confidence that their idol still has what it takes to attract hordes of fans to movie houses.
Many think that the age of the action blockbuster is slowly coming to an end, but fanatics cling to the theory that the three-year absence of Robin Padilla has created a vacuum which others like Cesar Montano, Raymart Santiago, Ronnie Ricketts and Ian Veneracion have tried to fill in vain.
Finally, the sobering and factual argument that comeback movies, with a few spectacular exceptions, have often been losing propositions that only further dim the star's already weakening luster.
Crowds milling outside the theaters, ogling movie stills, no longer automatically spell box office success. Without interesting material that will fit Robin Padilla and hook the fascination of the masses, Robin may just be on his way to obscurity. After all, none of the commercial formulas relied upon by local producers seem to have worked at all lately.
So will Bad Boy Robin cast his spell once more on local movies? Only time, not even Robin nor his crowd of fans and admirers, can really tell. .
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