Movie review – iNumber Number

2014-04-20 15:00

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iNumber Number opens on Friday. It’s a local heist thriller that’s won praise, awards and a distribution deal in the US. Siyabonga Sithole loved it. Gayle Edmunds not so much. Welcome to the first #Trending Popcorn War

Siyabonga Sithole: Loved it

Chili (S’dumo Mtshali) is an honest undercover cop who’s fed up with his corrupt bosses and has been passed up for a promotion so often that now he’s flirting with becoming one of the bad guys.

He convinces his friend and partner Shoes (Presley Chweneyagae) to join his plan to infiltrate a gang of notorious heist criminals to claim their part of the loot.

He’ll do just one job, he tells himself.

Set deep in the heart of Soweto and Johannesburg, iNumber Number is packed with action, and peppered with gunfire and an ever-rising body count.

But it manages to work plenty of comic relief into the script, often through the use of Tsotsitaal.

The production team comes out guns blazing with impeccable styling and breathtaking cinematography.

They’re matched by the gritty and provocative performances.

The movie began as a vehicle for Mtshali – his prize for winning the first season of the reality show Class Act.

His intense and convincing performance is supported by a great line-up of established actors who stride out and tackle their roles with gusto.

Hlubi Mboya is Gugu, a tough cookie and the only woman in a man’s world.

Israel Makoe shines as Skroef, a dark and twisted scumbag with a nose for smelling a rat.

Veteran Owen Sejake is gang leader Mambane and the excellent Brandon Auret is the thuggish Warren.

Each of the gangbangers brings individual traits to the fore without losing the power of their ensemble work.

The settling of old scores fuels bust-ups as they turn against one another.

If South Africa is a gangster’s paradise, iNumber Number is the movie of our times.

Its weird, loony and wayward characters offer us a glimpse of our criminal classes, our corrupt cops and our generation blinded by bling.

I think this may be my favourite South African film of all time.

It outshines Tsotsi because it’s more authentic and the language it uses is more real.

Gayle Edmunds: Not so much

The ghosts of past Hollywood blockbusters echo throughout ­iNumber Number, which is no doubt why Hollywood snapped up the rights to remake it.

It’s a crime thriller that holds its own in a crowded genre.

Whether this is progress or not depends on your angle.

If you think it’s great that we are beginning to take on the likes of The Italian Job and Armoured on their own turf, then us turning out competent genre films is a great thing.

The question then becomes: can local film makers convince audiences to choose the Presley Chweneyagae flick over the Jason ­Statham one when they hit the cinemas on a Saturday night?

On the other hand, why are our film makers so obsessed with copying their cultural imperialist brothers in Hollywood? Should we not be finding our own ways of telling our stories like France, Nigeria and India have done?

As its gangsters gather to plan a heist, iNumber Number increasingly feels like a messy Ocean’s Eleven.

Director Donovan Marsh even makes use of slo-mo as his gang gets set for action. Another favourite Hollywood trick.

The finale shoot-down feels like something inspired by a Quentin Tarantino film, blood galore and no one with a moral (or actual) leg to stand on when the gunsmoke clears.

At the end of iNumber Number, I felt that I had seen a perfectly watchable – if overly gory – thriller that would be wiped clean out of my mind when the next one comes along.

It was interesting that it was set in Joburg and nice to hear familiar voices, but it just didn’t stand out enough to be lauded as a triumph.

Marsh has done well to sell this film and local audiences who like skiet en donder will find it fits the bill.

Does it take South African film forward? Probably not. Does it matter? Probably not to Sipho and his mates looking for 90 minutes of action on a Saturday night.

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