I really, really wanted to like this one…

by Martin Hafer

I was a good choice to review this film.  After all, the film was set in my very favorite city in the world, Cape Town, South Africa—and I just got back from a trip there about a month and a half ago.  I’ve been there a couple times and it is truly beautiful.  Table Mountain and the sea shores are just amazing.  Additionally, when folks in the film suddenly started talking in other languages, this seemed pretty understandable to me, as the country has 11 different official languages and English and Afrikaans (an Africanized version of Dutch) are NOT spoken by all.   And, when you see huge fences around homes, again, I was not at all surprised by this.  In fact, I loved seeing and hearing all this.  And so, it can be rightly assumed that I really wanted to love this film, as I really love the country.  Unfortunately, my love for South Africa and its people did NOT extend to this film.  It seemed crude and muddled and is a film I wouldn’t recommend to friends.

Directed by
Jérôme Salle
Orlando Bloom, Forest Whitaker, Tanya van Graan
Release Date
Martin’s Grade: C-

The first portion of the movie worked fine for me.  Aside from a seemingly irrelevant intro where you see one of the leads as a child as he watches his father being burned to death as well as LOTS of gratuitous nudity, the film kept my attention.  Forrest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom (neither one of which is African, sadly) play detectives who are investigating a vicious killing.  A woman is discovered near the Botanical Gardens and she’s been horribly beaten to death.  However, this goes from being just a vicious killing to something much deeper—and a strange conspiracy that really didn’t work for me.  I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil the plot.

So why didn’t I like the film?  Well, the last portion seemed to be constructed with far less care than the first half of the film.  While I didn’t buy the conspiracy angle, the mystery and how it was all unraveled led to many scenes that just didn’t make logical sense.  First, if this was such a HUGE conspiracy and involved millions of Rand worth of profits, how was it THAT easy for Orlando Bloom’s character to just sneak into the place and steal incriminating information of the computer?!  After all, folks had been trying to kill him and his partner and the corrupt superiors at work were pressuring him to drop the case.  Additionally, once he got this information, the baddies called him and demanded he return the evidence or they’ll kill his ex-wife, you would assume no one would be stupid enough to simply go to rescue her with absolutely no back up—especially since they’d already killed a lot of folks.  Yet, ineplicably, he walks right into this situation and only survives because it’s such a contrived movie.  That’s because although the baddies had been very willing to massacre everyone that got in their way, like in a James Bond film, they didn’t just put a bullet into the detective’s head but gave him ample opportunity to escape!  And, the very ending and what occurs to Forrest Whitaker’s character….it just didn’t make a lot of sense either.  Nor, for that matter, the lack of footprints in this desert locale.

The bottom line is that unless you are absolutely crazy about seeing Orlando Bloom’s butt, I can’t think of a lot of reasons to see this film.  While the depiction of the police as being corrupt and South Africa being a violent place isn’t far from the truth, the film just makes too many logical leaps to be taken very seriously.  And, I was a bit turned off by all the violence and nudity—they got in the way of the story. For me, a much more enjoyable film about South Africa is White Wedding—a charming little comedy that you cannot help but like.

If you do see this film, a couple things to note:  the term ‘coloured’ in South Africa refers to bi-racial people, not blacks and a ‘shabeen’ is a locally owned and operated shop that serves drinks in the poor townships as opposed to the more upscale pubs in the suburbs.