Stars : Jericho Rosales(Philippines) as Rocky Santillan
Carmen Soo(Malaysian) as Garie Hang-Li
I must state from the onset that I'm not a fan of either Filipino or Malaysian dramas. Have tried watching them but they just bore me to tears. The storylines are not interesting and draggy and the characters are just too dull.
But recently I happened to catch one episode of Kahit Isang Saglit (it's Tagalog for Even for just one moment) on TV, I was impressed that it was quite well done. As I don't have the patience to see the show on TV everyday I watched the whole series online and I have to say I changed my mind about SEA dramas after this.
KIS is basically 2 stories weaved together. A love story and the revenge plot. The story reminds me of a pretzel(my version of it). 2 parts intertwined, one part sweet and the other slightly saltish but eaten together the flavours just meld in a very satisfying manner.
KIS is about the story of Rocky whose father, a police officer, was killed by a drug dealer. The mother on finding out the husband had died suffered a heart attack and died leaving Rocky in the care of his Aunt. He vowed justice for his father.
Garie on the other hand had a Filipino father and a Malaysian mother. One day her father disappeared from their lives and was never heard of again.
Fast forward 15 years, Rocky is now a PDEA (Drugs Enforcement) officer and Garie is working for her Grandmother's shipping company. The two met by chance when Rocky went to Malaysia to follow a drug trail. Due to some mishaps involving the both of them they ended up spending time together and fell in love. That's the beginning of a great love story. After the sweet beginning the action drama/revenge story started developing. All these while Rocky had never forgotten his vow to his father and was still searching for the killer. He knew it is somehow linked to the drug cartel, Amorseko. Garie on the other hand had never forgotten about her father and somehow believed that he is still alive somewhere in the Philippines. She decided to leave with Rocky for the Philippines to look for him. Things went a bit awry but she somehow managed to escape to the Philippines and met up with Rocky amidst bullets flying everywhere!
Who killed Rocky's father and what has the drug mafia Amorseko got to do with the killer and how is it related to the two lovebirds were all interesting questions. Each episode reveals a new twist and adds to the complications faced by our star-crossed lovers and finally ended tragically for all concerned. To reveal more will spoil the fun of watching. Suffice to say the latter half moved at breakneck speed and the excitement keeps mounting until the last episode.
This drama reminds me of the Korean drama Time between Dog and Wolf. There are certain similarities in the themes and the storyline but KIS stands on its own and has its own identity. In general, KIS is not a great story, the plots are not very original and some of the scenes don't make sense but what makes it thoroughly enjoyable are the actors, especially the 2 leads. They somehow seem to draw you into their lives and into their romance so much so that they are no longer Echo and Carmen but Rocky and Garie. You love with them, you laugh, cry and went through the whole gamut of emotions that they went through everytime they are on screen. A very good cast from both countries and generally the acting is above par. Jericho Rosales (Echo) deserves special mention. He shows why he is one of Asia's best young actors. Rarely you find someone who acts with his eyes, his face and his body together. For me, I judge how good an actor is by the pain he can emote or the love he can express without using words and Echo pass with flying colours. Here is one actor who actually gets inside the character and becomes him. He is no longer Echo the actor but Rocky Santillan the man. His acting is so intense that he gives you goosebumps. To me the most memorable love scene is at the Lighthouse hotel when he was looking at Garie through the glass. The expression of pain, the anger mixed with the love and longing that he could no longer contained was absolutely heartbreaking and when he turned away you wish you could just dragged him to Garie and make him hug her to assuage his hunger for her. Carmen Soo probably needs a bit more practice. She started off not too good but as the series progressed she became much better. Carmen shines in the scene when her father was killed. Her hysterics when her father died really moved me. The expression of helplessness and anger she displayed shows her at her best. Given time and experience this lady can go far. Rarely you find 2 actors have such great chemistry. They just clicked. It probably is not easy to play lovers considering that they are literally from 2 different worlds and communicate in different languages. The veterans from both countries were in a class of their own.
Kudos to the Directors and the writers. Everything was kept crisp and there were rarely any draggy scenes. The fact that each episode is 1/2 an hour probably helps to tighten the pace. My only grouse was that towards the end there were just too much flash backs which were unnecessary and I know that KIS fans will kill me for saying this, that it would have been more in line with the storyline and more poignant if the 2 lovers did not end up together. Somehow it seems like a compromise to have the last scene just to keep all the die-hard romantics happy. (Okay, okay, I would have killed the directors too if they didn't have the last scene after dragging all of us through the emotional rollercoaster ride of their great love.) Filipino directors have finally come of age and have done a good job here.
KIS is not one of those dramas whereby you'll spend hours analysing frame by frame. It is made to be entertaining and on that premise it has succeeded. The love story is engaging and you find yourself rooting for them despite all the odds stacked against them and the fast pacing of the action part kept the story interesting. The only drawback is that the drama is in part Tagalog and part English but don't let this deter you. Even though I don't understand Tagalog it has not stop me from enjoying the show. Anyway the Tagalog conversations are liberally laced with english words, enough to get the gist of the content most of the time.
If asean dramas are of the same quality as KIS, I think people will start picking them up.
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