City of Violence

Orland Bloom and Forest Whitaker in City of Violence (Facebook)
Orland Bloom and Forest Whitaker in City of Violence (Facebook)
What's it about:

In a South Africa still haunted by apartheid, two police officers are tracking the killer of a teenage girl. From the townships of Cape Town to luxurious seafront villas, the investigation will transform the two men’s lives, forcing them to confront their inner demons.

What we thought:

City of Violence, known to the rest of the world as Zulu, is a movie about South Africa, but not made by South Africans. A French guy also wrote the book it is based on, and this foreign touch is quite evident as we delve into the underbelly of our young democracy, still tainted by the past.

As the title suggests, this is one brutal film, similar in style to that of Hollywood noir films. People get beaten to a pulp, hands cut off, gun fights galore and sick twisted morals are rampant throughout.  Two cops, one trying to hold on to forgiveness of the past while the other won’t let go of his father’s sins, have to go up against a new drug infecting the city, turning people violent. As in real life, the drug had been rampant in the townships, but as soon as rich white girl becomes a victim pressure is mounted to find the person responsible.

This film is not a ‘rainbow nation’ friendly film. It takes great pleasure in ripping that vision apart by showing that Apartheid still shows it ugly head in our young nation, a dying but deadly monster. In the film, the origin of the drug is rooted in a real life old regime programme called Project Coast – scientific research dedicated to bio warfare, infamously also being involved in trying to create a bio-bomb that would sterilise the black population without their knowledge. Why use fiction when reality is that much more terrifying, and for the South African audience it would drive home.

South Africans are very quick to point out flaws when overseas actors portray South African characters. The two leads Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom, however, did a brilliant job. I expected Whitaker to be able to pull of a Zulu cop (although difficult to understand at times), but I was surprised at Bloom’s performance. Although the American came through here and there, his portrayal of a battered, cynical cop who tries to run away from his Afrikaner identity, he was spot on. I would rate this is one of his best roles which really pushed him to a different sphere of his acting repertoire. And his car is amazingly proudly South African.

One of the dangers of foreigners making a movie in a country that they are not from is their skewed portrayal of said country. I am not saying Cape Town is a peaceful city, far from it, but if you take the movie at face value the Mother City is just an irredeemable cesspool breeding lowlife and corruption and might as well be a warzone.

On the other hand, it also depends on which suburb you live in, as Cape Town is very apt at brushing its gloom under the tourist carpet.

A hard and stretched out movie to watch, and anyone living in Cape Town would balk at some of the geographical discontinuity, but interesting nonetheless. If you like a good cop thriller and extreme violence, this will definitely satiate your twisted heart.

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