WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Daniel Niemand is the kind of dumpy little sad-sack that even flies wouldn’t care to buzz around—and that’s on a good day. But that all changes when his wife leaves him for their marriage counsellor and he unknowingly becomes integral in a high-level police ploy to capture a local crime syndicate.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Ever thought about pressing the reset button on your life? Make different choices, explore new places, reinvent yourself? Or maybe find a space for the real you to finally shine through. For Daniël - a soon-to-be-divorced criminal accountant hated by his family - this sounds like a dream come true, but it comes at a high cost. Ander Mens is the Afrikaans answer to the violence, and dry humour of cult hit directors Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino, but does it work in a local context? The answer is a definitive yes.
A policeman close to retirement is on a mission to take down his arch-nemesis - a wily gangster with a brother that's too good at cleaning up. A hapless accountant becomes embroiled in their war, and soon crosses the path of a deadly lieutenant set on righting some wrongs in the world.
Directed by the acclaimed Quentin Krog, Ander Mens is a big step away from his previous work like Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling, Vir die Voëls and Thys & Trix. It's similar in style to Ritchie's gangster film work, sprinkled with the violence of Tarantino, but Krog makes it his own with his eloquent narration and ability to create a relatable lead character.
On the surface, Daniël is a boring man with no ambition in life, but suddenly comes alive again when presented with new situations that could destroy his old life, but from the ashes, something else emerges. It might not be better, but it's different, and everyone has at least once yearned for that kind of transformation.
Daniël is played by Bennie Fourie (Hotel, Vuil Wasgoed, Stroomop) who is a phenomenal actor that can chameleon himself into any role. He gives Daniël a subtle charm that takes a while to shine through, but when you see it, you can't help but fall for his clumsiness.
Frank Opperman, as usual, also does what he does best as the slimy gangster, and the taunts that bounce between him and James Borthwick as the fed-up cop is like watching a professional tennis match.
Unfortunately, I wasn't too fond of Marlee van der Merwe's character as the 'shoot first' cop - her seriousness and back story seemed somewhat misplaced, but she can kick ass in any fight.
What's also great to see is the film's effective use of the stunning scenery available in South Africa, as well as a cinematographer with an amazing eye like Jacques Koudstaal. Action sequences in local film productions can sometimes lack fluidity and actors tend to look uncomfortable with their guns, but in Ander Mens it was professional and well-thought-out, adding another pin in the rising standards of local film in general.
While the story does tend to lose its pace from time to time, Ander Mens is the perfect watch for fans of Snatch, Pulp Fiction and RocknRolla, dabbling with the dry side of Afrikaans humour and set in some of the most beautiful places in South Africa.