Jarrid Geduld in Indemnity.
Jarrid Geduld in Indemnity.
Photo supplied: Ster-Kinekor




Now showing in cinemas


2.5/5 Stars


Theo Abrams (Jarrid Geduld) is an out-of-work fireman who has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after three of his colleagues lost their lives to an out of control fire, one that nearly claimed his own life too, so when he wakes up one day to find his wife, Angie (Nicole Fortuin), apparently strangled to death, all evidence points towards him being responsible. As dangerous forces gather, however, and Theo is forced to run from the cops, it becomes increasingly clear that he and Angie are just the latest victims in a conspiracy that goes all the way to the topper most echelons of the government. 


What we have here is something of a good news/bad news kind of situation. The good news is that despite its totally terrible trailer, Indemnity is actually a very well put-together action thriller that punches well above its weight as both a low-budget indie and, to be entirely frank, a local action flick. The bad news, though, is that, like the vast, vast, vast majority of action thrillers, it is, quite simply, utter rubbish. It's not much worse than whatever generic Liam Neeson thriller is on our screens this month, but as ambitions go, matching something like... checks local movie listing for generic photo of big Liam holding a gun... Memory (oh, the irony) is hardly shooting for the stars.

Writer/director Travis Taute comes from local TV series like Blood & Water and danZ! so it's no small thing that for his feature film debut, he has come up with something genuinely cinematic, boasting some eye-catching cinematography from Zenn van Zyl, rock-solid production values, and action scenes that are well choreographed - if occasionally (though only occasionally) coming across as just a bit too choreographed for their own good. It really is, by any standards, as well mounted an action thriller as anything of its sort coming from Hollywood.

Unfortunately, a lot of the weaknesses of the genre are present and more than accounted for here. It's extraordinarily derivative, moving from a Fugitive knock off to, well, take your pick of any conspiracy thriller you've ever seen. The dialogue reads as self-parody in how cliché it all is and is every bit as clunky and unnatural-sounding as it is lazy. That most of it is in Afrikaans doesn't change that. The acting is variable, with some decent enough supporting performances and a lead performance from Jarrid Geduld that works perfectly well when he is playing the "everyman" action hero type, but is far less convincing when trying to portray the symptoms of PTSD. Perhaps most damningly, like so many action-thrillers, it's severely lacking in any sort of a sense of humour, never fully embracing just how utterly silly it actually is. 

And, gosh, is it silly. 

Not so much in its straightforward Fugitive-like early sections - where its biggest crimes are bland over-familiarity and a lead actor who, again, is perfectly fine, but is nowhere near charismatic enough to pull something this formulaic off (Harrison Ford he ain't – though, sure, who is?) - but when it becomes a full-on bonkers conspiracy-thriller in its second half.

Government conspiracies are already pretty silly, just by their nature, for the simple reason that most governments – or, really, any group of more than, at most, two people – simply aren't organised, efficient, single-minded, or competent enough to pull off anything more complicated than a Nandos order, but when you set your film in South Africa, that incredulity takes on almost epic proportions. This, after all, is a country with a government who, as we speak, aren't even competent enough to keep the lights on for more than a couple of days at a time, and we're supposed to believe that they're behind a convoluted, continent-wide conspiracy whose details I can't get into without getting into spoiler territory but are, to put it lightly, ludicrously ambitious? You have got to be joking. Surely.     

And yet, to I'm sure no one's surprise, while I found the first half of the film really quite boring (in the way that I find most derivative, po-faced action-thrillers really quite boring), the second half is actually a total hoot. And the fact that it seems to take itself as seriously as it does, only makes it that much funnier. Forget suspending your sense of disbelief; the second half of the film is so patently ridiculous, so thoroughly detached from any sense of reality, that any remaining disbelief will presumably just shrug its shoulders and see itself out all on its own; thank you very much.

I'm 99% sure I was laughing at Indemnity by the end there, rather than with it, but honestly, at that point, it kind of didn't matter. I was laughing, and quite a bit at that, and however much I respect the film for being as solidly put-together as it so clearly is, I kind of love it, even just a little, for the way it gave me something so few of these sorts of films ever do: A few minutes of honest-to-goodness fun.


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