Neo-noir heist drama loses the plot halfway

2011-07-25 00:00

THE South African film How to Steal 2 million starts off as a complex and riveting film with scintillating cinematography, but it loses its momentum as it hits the halfway mark and becomes tedious and untidy, resorting to clichés rather than true grit.

Nevertheless, the film entertains and the star cast is bound to have fans raving.

The neo-noir heist drama is set in a dog-eat-dog world that’s decorated in shadows and deceit and follows the decisions of a brooding gangster, Jack (Menzi Ngubane of Generations, Country of my Skull fame), who has just been released after five years in prison. He comes back to a life that offers him nothing to live for. His fiancée, Kim (Hlubi Mboya, Isidingo), married his best friend, Twala (Rapulana Seiphemo, Tsotsi, Jerusalema), while he was in jail and his plans to change his ways and live a crime-free life are constantly challenged. Twala offers Jack one last job before he walks away, a house robbery worth R2 million, but unknown to Jack, Twala has his own motives behind the hit.

The film also stars Terry Pheto (Tsotsi) as Olive, Jack’s accomplice, a spunky woman willing to do anything for money so that she can support her kid.

Jack is an intriguing character, and Ngubane brings him to life with skill. Accompanied by Pheto, who provides some great comic relief, he drives the film to its climax, despite the screenplay losing its wheels.

Co-stars Seiphemo, Mboya and John Kani also provide noteworthy performances that prove South Africa indeed does have talent.

However, the action sequences and tension are weak, especially with the film’s genre relying on it, making it appear stylistically low-budget despite there being some excellent cinematography in the opening scenes and brilliant dialogue. The film also rushes to a conclusion in which every character meets a type of karmic justice, but it is too quick and subtle to make any statement and feels almost cowardly.

This debut feature by Charlie Vundla is one of the 22 films being screened at the Durban International Film Festival and will be showing at cinemas nationwide in September. The film is in Afrikaans, English and Zulu with English subtitles. ***

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