A Dangerous Life is a 1988 English-language Australian film about the final years of the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos' rule, from the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr. in 1983 to the People Power Revolution in 1986 that ousted Marcos.

A Dangerous Life
Directed byRobert Markowitz
Produced byHal McElroy
Written byDavid Williamson
StarringGary Busey
Rebecca Gilling
Music byBrian May
CinematographyJames Bartle
Edited byMichael Honey and Tony Kavanagh
Distributed by
Release date
  • 27 November 1988 (1988-11-27)
Running time
6 hours (HBO cable tv); 162 minutes (television)

The film focuses on American TV journalist Tony O'Neil (Gary Busey), who finds himself in the middle of key events that lead to the downfall of the Marcos regime. Originally airing on television as a mini-series that ran for a total of six hours, the film was edited to 162 minutes for the home video release.[1][2]

Filming of the movie took place in Manila, Philippines, Colombo, Sri Lanka and Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne in Australia.


After being informed by Fabian Ver of Senator Ninoy Aquino's arrival, Imelda Marcos tells her husband Ferdinand about her warning to Ninoy about not returning to the Philippines due to dangers to his life.

American news correspondent and journalist Tony O'Neill, who has just been flown to the Philippines, is driving with his cameraman and technical operator Ramon to Manila International Airport to cover the arrival of Senator Aquino from the United States. At a nearby hotel, Rolando Galman is handed a Philippine Airlines maintenance engineer's uniform by colleagues before they leave. Inside the airport's two-year old modern terminal, he and other journalists witness the arrival of the aircraft, a China Airlines Boeing 767 and enter the airbridge to await the senator's entry. Seconds later, Ninoy is shot along with Galman and several other gunshots force Tony and the other journalists to leave the scene as Ninoy's body is loaded to a van. Fleeing to the arrival concourse, O'Neill asks Ramon if he filmed the entire incident, wherein the latter only responds that he failed to do so as everything "happened too fast".

Meanwhile in Boston, a telephone call awakens Corazon Aquino. The caller tells of her husband's death and asks her to confirm it to which she states that she never received such news. She and her family fly home from the United States and during the wake of Ninoy, she tells her two daughters that they shall vow to avenge his death and identify the perpetrators. The day after the assassination, Marcos and Olivas preside over the initial investigation of Aquino's assassination. After answering the questions of the journalists, Marcos condemns the previous day's incident and warns everyone not to make any dangerous assumptions.

O'Neill covers Aquino's funeral and calls it as "larger than that of Gandhi's". At a phone call in his residence, he asks his superior Alex to allow him to stay longer in Manila due to the recent events, to which Alex agrees. Before going to Malacañang Palace


Fictional charactersEdit

  • Gary Busey as Tony O'Neil, an American television journalist and news correspondent who is sent to Manila to cover Ninoy Aquino's return and chooses to stay longer after finding himself in the midst of a revolution against Marcos and decides to cover it for the news.
  • Rebecca Gilling as Angie Fox, the estranged wife of Tony O'Neill. Prior to the ending, during the Malacañang Palace riot scene, she and Tony reconcile and later return to the United States.
  • James Handy as Mike Heseltine
  • Roy Alvarez as Col. "Tiger" Tecson, a fictional colonel who is the colleague of Lt. Col. Kapunan and Col. Honasan. In real life, Alvarez has a physical resemblance to Col. Gringo Honasan and due to this, he was supposed to play Honasan in the film but the producers felt he was better suited as Angie's love interest.
  • Guy Stone as Peter
  • Alexander Cortez as Raoul
  • Jaime Fabregas as Ben Balamo, a Manila newspaper company owner who makes articles on what is going on after the Aquino assassination. He befriends Tony in the film after their meeting during a press conference with Marcos on Aquino's assassination in Malacanang. With the help of one of Marcos' men, he and his family flees for the United States.
  • Dina Bonnevie as Celie Balamo, the niece of Ben Balamo whom Tony becomes attracted to and falls in love with. She later joins the New People's Army but later leaves. She is then abducted from Tony's home and killed by one of Marcos' henchmen; her corpse is then dumped in Tondo's Smokey Mountain site. After Tony finds her body, he works to find ways to reconcile with his wife Rebecca. Though uncredited in the film, her performance was highly praised by Philippine media.
  • Spanky Manikan as Ramon, Tony's Filipino cameraman, assistant, and friend
  • Grace Parr as New York Times secretary
  • Arthur Sherman as Alex, the president and chief broadcaster of the news company Tony works for.
  • Betty Mae Piccio as a computer operator

Historical figuresEdit


Production creditsEdit

Tessie Tomas' casting as Imelda Marcos was due to the recommendation of director Peque Gallaga.[3]


Although the film was shot on location in the Philippines, some scenes were shot in Sri Lanka, mostly due to political and legal pressures from Juan Ponce Enrile who also appreciated the film but did not like the way he was represented (albeit as a fictional version as portrayed by Joonee Gamboa). Other reasons were that the producers had experienced similar conflicts when filming a similar film, The Year of Living Dangerously in 1981 in Manila.

Some scenes were shot in Australia. The scene of the late Butz Aquino calling from Camp Crame was shot in Sydney.


  •   Australia - ABC, one of the companies who helped in producing the film, broadcast the film in 1989 under the title, The Four-Day Revolution. The film was released on home video in the country though CIC-Taft Home Video.
  •   Spain - the film was once shown in Spain under the title, Una Vida Peligrosa.
  •   Canada - the movie was released on home video in Canada in 1989 through Nova Home Video.
  •   Finland - the film was once shown in Finland under the title, Vaarallista elämää.
  •   South Korea - the film was once shown in South Korea under the title, wiheomhan saenghwal (Korean: 위험한 생활).
  •   Philippines - GMA Network (then known as GMA Radio Television Arts) broadcast the film in 1989. The movie was the first major Australian production to air on the network. ABS-CBN aired the film during Holy Week 2010.
  •   United States - HBO broadcast the film on November 27, 1988. The film was released on home video in the country via J2 Communications.
  •   West Germany - the film was once shown in Germany under the title, Ein gefährliches Leben.
  •   Japan - the film was once shown in Japan under the title, Kiken'na seikatsu (Japanese: 危険な生活).

Critical responseEdit

Manila Standard columnist Emil P. Jurado disparaged A Dangerous Life, calling it an "insult to the Filipino people... and to the heroes of EDSA in particular" for its poor acting, conspicuously Sri Lankan extras, and treatment of foreigners as the main heroes. Jurado, however, noted "flashes of brilliance" from the performances of Laurice Guillen and Tessie Tomas as Corazon Aquino and Imelda Marcos respectively.[4]


  1. ^ The New York Times - A Dangerous Life
  2. ^ Ed. Scott Murray, Australia on the Small Screen 1970-1995, Oxford Uni Press, 1996 p186
  3. ^ Reyna, Armida (21 November 1988). "Boring". Manila Standard. Manila Standard News, Inc. p. 14. Retrieved 27 June 2019. I was recommended by Peque Gallaga. When Robert Marcowitz [sic], the director contacted me in New York I was surprised because I thought that the casting was finished.
  4. ^ Jurado, Emil (30 November 1988). "Comedy of errors". Manila Standard. Manila Standard News, Inc. p. 10. Retrieved 21 January 2019.

External linksEdit