I love food and I miss going to places where I can expect gourmet food trucks to hang out for summer festivals and comic-con convos, but “Lumpia with a Vengeance” won’t feed your inner foodie nor make you want to visit Fogtown or fuel any late-night AAPI hero conversations. This Fogtown fiasco fumbles through a saga of heroes and food.
In the beginning, we’re told a few things.
bayani[bai-YAH-nee], n. Filipino for hero; non-gender specific term for one who fights for the people
crab mentality, n. idiomatic, also known as “crags in a bucket (also barrel or pot)” metaphor, a colonized pattern of behavior that emphasizes competition
At the center is “a hero with unique tastes”: Kuya. Kuya means “older brother” and this Kuya fights crime with lumpia. That’s the Filipino version of the egg roll. Expect to see lots of food, including a spy camera lumpia and people smoking lumpia. There are some cross-cultural foods within the fight such as tacitos and then instead of pixie dust there’s crab mentality glitter (Happy Crab Powder).
Fogtown is slang for Daly City, California, the most populous city in San Mateo County, located immediately south of San Francisco. According to the 2010 US Census, 57.3 percent of the population is of Asian descent. Of that, about 32 percent are Filipino. Reading one of the blurbs for the film that stated sixty percent of the Fogtown population was Filipino made me check those stats.
This crowd-funded film is a sequel to Patricio Ginelsa Jr.’s 2003 cult classic. In “Lumpia with a Vengeance,” the Silent Avenger Kuya (Mark Muñoz in the sequel, but Carlos Baon in the original) returns to battle a crime syndicate led by the evil Jemini (Katrina Jayne Dimaranan) that sells drugs disguised as lumpia. Kuya is aided by his pal, G-Dog (Earl Baylon), a high school student named Rachel (April Labson) and her friends. Rachel is also the maid of honor at her own parents’ wedding and Kuya and Rachel must save both the town and the wedding. That means there’s a lot of scenes at a high school and yet that makes this often groan-worth script (by Ginelsa, Bernard Badion and Christopher Santiago) beg to be compared to a high school production.
Some of the graphics are good, but for the most part, the acting is flatter than a tortilla. Some jokes go from simmer to burned out waterless pan. A more critical editing would have helped.
“Lumpia with a Vengeance” has some good ideas, but all that is fogged over by overindulgence and often flat acting. “Lumpia with a Vengeance was part of the Filipinos in Focus event at AAIFF44 on Wednesday, 18 August 2021. “Lumpia with a Vengeance” did win the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Hawaii International Film Festival in 2020.