WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
The Masire brothers rule Johannesburg's criminal underworld but a supernatural family curse and a tangled web of betrayal threaten to destroy them.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
When Mogomotsi "Mo" Masire (Zolisa Xaluva) is released from prison, he is forced to choose between honouring his responsibilities to the Kings of Joburg or escaping a life of crime to be with the woman he loves.
Mogomotsi is influenced by his brother, Simon "Vader" Masire (Shona Ferguson), who persuades him to rather honour his commitments to the crime family. But beneath the confident demeanour and silver tongue, Simon hides a deep, dark secret...
This six-part series delves into the inner workings of the Kings of Joburg brotherhood, and loyalties are tested when secrets threaten to shatter the fragile family facade.
After reading the series synopsis, I was excited to get stuck into the new local crime drama. Kings of Joburg possesses all the elements I seek out when searching for a new show to watch – crime, forbidden love, family secrets and a touch of the supernatural. The premise had me hooked!
But it turns out too much of a good thing is what sunk this plot.
The primary story about the seedy Johannesburg crime underworld and the power dynamics within the Masire crime family had grounds for a compelling narrative, but too many subplots and twists made this series unnecessarily long and confusing.
Burdened by overplotting, the series dragged along slowly. Sadly the most exciting arch about a supernatural family curse is one we see very little of – and only towards the end of the series are we provided with some flimsy context.
Although the (many, many, many) subplots added little to no value to the main story, it doesn't mean the intention was not good. These could have been saved for a successful spin-off or stand-alone series.
As with the overplotting, the series also suffered from too many characters. I admire the stellar cast of renowned South African actors, but at some point I would have greatly benefitted from a character cheat sheet or flow chart of some sort.
When it comes to the acting, Zolisa delivers an excellent portrayal of the ex-con Mogomotsi. He was composed and gentle when the role called for it and powerful when he was required to take charge of the scene.
The romance between Mogomotsi and Phumzi (Cindy Mahlangu) was convincing and I enjoyed their on-screen chemistry. I fell in love with Cindy in Netflix's Blood & Water and it was great seeing her take on a more mature role.
Shona took on the mammoth task of bringing to life Simon, the head of the crime family. The role was not only physically demanding but also required a quiet power – someone who does not have to speak loudly to be heard and respected.
Shona portrayed the role with suave and confidence, commanding his soldiers to do a task with the slight motion of a finger or nod of the chin. But I would have liked to see more dimension from the kingpin.
Thembi Seete is cast as the Masire brothers' sister, Keneilwe, who is introduced later in the series. Although her character provides insight into the Masire family dynamic, the story could just as easily have moved along at a faster rate without her.
Keneilwe is involved in a somewhat taboo romantic relationship, which offers no support to the main story; however, a forbidden love story within a crime family has its own merit.
Although some series and movies work great with an ensemble cast, this, unfortunately, was not the case for Kings of Joburg. The supporting cast was assigned a significant amount of screen time and six episodes were not enough to successfully develop and explore each character's arch.
Despite the flaws, the plot twist is a goodie – although it's overshadowed by a less than satisfying ending.
Overall, the story lacks one gripping storyline that remains throughout the series. Instead, non-essential characters and storylines took me on a clumsy detour to a conclusion that ultimately left me with one question: What was this series really about?
The ending sets us up for a season 2 and, after the end credits roll, there are still many loose ends begging for a neat bow.
But perhaps those will be addressed in the next season?
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: