Movie review – Script robs local heist flick of its currency

2012-01-13 11:17

Film: 31 Million Reasons (Nu Metro)
Director: John Barker
Featuring: Jack Devnarain, Rahul Brijnath, Meren Reddy, Neville Pillay, Trevor Gumbi, Afzal Khan
Rating: 5/10

Director John Barker has taken a true South African crime story and turned it into a heist film.

The result looks the part, but the plot can’t keep up. Set in Durban, Barker manages to get a new perspective on this favoured seaside town. In the production notes he talks about capturing a different view of the city and in this, at least, he succeeds.

“I was less interested in the postcard image of Durban but more in the third world, East meets West; in the southern hemisphere kind of mix.

“This dynamic culture clash is a great visual backdrop. However, the key visual element of the film is the Indian influence.

“The South African Indian community is fascinating as it has its own set of social rules and traditions. It has a particular sense of humour and its own guidelines for right and wrong. This strong culture within an African culture is a wonderful palette for a filmmaker to draw inspiration.”

It’s a shame then that, though Barker’s visual vision is realised, the script isn’t slick enough to complement it.

As with so many South African films the script needed to be refined in parts and rewritten in others.

The real theft took place in Durban about a decade ago and was perpetrated by bent cops and a motley collection of small-time crooks and drunks. Little surprise then that the lot of them ended up either dead or banged up.

One problem is that even though the protagonist, Ronnie Gopal, is played by handsome Jack Devnarain of Isidingo fame, it’s hard to like the guy. Devnarain began his working life as a policeman so he was able to make his character more believable. Still, he’s a rather unpleasant character, but his partner is a real piece of work. Jugs (Rahul Brijnath) is not only having it off with Ronnie’s wife, but he’s more than willing to pull the trigger at any provocation.

These two shady guys find out about an easy mark from an alcohol-addled gambler and they decide to go
for it and steal a million rand.

It turns out to be much, much more moolah, which turns a bunch of greedy crooks into a bunch of murderously greedy crooks.

Ronnie and Jugs add another pair of fiddlers to their crew, including an illegal immigrant looking for a way back to New Delhi and a shopkeeper indebted to his brother-in-law. The motivation for selecting these guys isn’t really clear and including the drunk is just plain crazy.

The real problem though is that the script gets really messy while the heist is going down.

If you consider heist films such as Inside Man or Ocean’s Eleven, there’s always a clear explanation – for the benefit of the audience – of how the action’s going to go down so that everyone knows who is doing what.

That doesn’t happen here so it just looks like scrambled chaos as the thieves bumble around in the dark.

All in all, 31 Million Reasons doesn’t live up to the promise it makes of being a slick, sexy South African heist movie. Alas, in a global market the competition is tougher and filmmakers, like everyone else, have to compete.

31 Million Reasons unfortunately doesn’t quite make the grade.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.