Hero or villain? Lover or fighter? Sinner or saint?

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A quick search of #MariaMovie online will lead to poster images of a fierce-looking Cristine Reyes with those words.

A film by Pedring A. Lopez (Direk Pedring), “Maria” follows the story of a former cartel assassin named Lily who fakes her own death after an unfulfilled mission that earns the wrath of her organization.  She flees to a distant province where she completely transforms her life.  Changing her name to Maria, she meets Bert, a respectable businessman who becomes her husband.  They have a daughter named Mina. 

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Maria’s peaceful life is cut short when the cartel learns of her whereabouts.  Kaleb, the man whose orders she didn’t follow in the past, tracks her down right inside her home.  Failing to protect her family, she returns to a life of violence with revenge on her mind.

Cristine Reyes shows how badass she can get as she takes on the title role.  She underwent rigorous training and was obviously hurt while shooting a major fight scene, yet the actress remained unperturbed as seen in her Instagram story showing the numerous bruises on her arms and legs.   

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The internationally acclaimed Direk Pedring (Best Director at the Los Angeles Philippine Film Festival and Festival Internacional de Cine Fantastico de Torremolinos for “Nilalang”)   tweeted that Cristine handles the fights with almost 90% of all her stunts without doubles”, expressing his “respect for her dedication to her craft.” 

For the past 15 years, Reyes has done a lot of comedy and drama films and a few horror movies.  “Maria” is her big screen comeback after “Abay Babes”.  In an interview found on Film Combat Syndicate.com, the actress says, “It’s definitely the most challenging thing I’ve done in my career.  I’m super proud of it…”

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She also narrates how Viva gave her this project. “They felt strongly about the material and thought I’d be a good fit for the role. I guess they figured it would speak to me on many levels – as an actress, as a mother in real life, and as a martial arts enthusiast. And they were correct. I loved the script when I read it.” 

Being a fan of the ‘80s action, Direk Pedring says that he “wanted to bring it back, (but) put it in a modern setting”, and to “utilize Filipino martial arts”  which is seen in Hollywood movies like the “Bourne” franchise.   Reyes exalts the director for his vision, saying, “I like his style. He has a vision and he really wants that vision to really happen…You feel that he loves his project.” 

”It’s about time to show the world that Filipino filmmakers can also do excellent action films,” says Reyes.  “Even more exciting that these movies are being fronted by strong female characters. The world needs to know that Filipinas also kick butt!” 

Prior to this, VIVA Films already produced an intense and superbly executed action film centering on a female lead.  “BuyBust”, starring Anne Curtis as a PDEA agent, became the talk of the town when it was shown in cinemas last August 2018.  The fight choreographer/fight director for this film was Sonny Sison, the same one for “Maria”.  He also worked with Direk Pedring in “Nilalang”. 

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Talking about Reyes, Sison says, “From the perspective of a fight choreographer, it is nice to see your lead actress not just commit in doing the moves but also infuses the emotional content.  That’s really important where action is concerned…you are really able to emote the feeling of what’s going on in the fight at the same time.”

All her co-actors agree that they are blown away by Reyes’ performance.  The actress concludes, *“It’s one heck of an action film but also a terrific drama movie about a mother’s love for her child. It’s a movie for everyone.”

 “Maria” also stars Ivan Padilla, KC Montero, Guji Lorenzana, Jennifer Lee, Andrea del Rosario, Cindy Miranda, Freddie Webb and Ronnie Lazaro.  Opens in cinemas on March 27. From VIVA Films, BlackOps Studios Asia, and PsyOps.

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