Khanyi Mbau's Red Room leaves room for improvement

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Zama has to get out: An interesting character played by one of the best, Khanyi Mbau, but something in this film falls short Pictures: supplied
Zama has to get out: An interesting character played by one of the best, Khanyi Mbau, but something in this film falls short Pictures: supplied

Khanyi Mbau is back after her last appearance in that suspect Leon Schuster film, Frank and Fearless. Red Room is a little better, but Phumlani S Langa still sees problems.

Red Room
Director: Sans Moonsamy
Starring: Khanyi Mbau, Pakamisa Zwedala
. . . - -

Are you familiar with the idea of a red room? It’s the horrific practice that involves women being abducted and showcased to rich clientele (shitty men) who purchase them for sordid sexual escapades. Even more ominously, the original idea is a Japanese construct where you could, in essence, watch a murder take place – live.

The threat of ending up in a red room and her small child being sold is the premise of new local thriller Red Room, starring Khanyi Mbau. Zama Marawa (Mbau) is an expectant mother married to a man who has created his wealth by using some underhand techniques. Played by Aubrey Poo, the husband character appears in all three scenes before he reaches his demise, leaving Zama and her baby in a precarious position financially.

Zama moves to a sketchy haven for single mothers and children, called God’s Haven. But this is anything but a haven. The manager Albert Nkosi (Pakamisa Zwedala) reels in vulnerable people, planning to auction them off to bad people, such as Russian Dimitrov Kuryalenko (Charlie Bouguenon).

Seeing Bouguenon play a dark mobster is a far cry from the loyal puppy-dog-like character he plays in the soapie Scandal!

Nick Soul plays Jonas, the caretaker of the building who doesn’t want to see Zama fall into this trap. Prior to seeing him in this, I was not completely convinced of his skill, but he sinks his teeth into this role, as does Mbau.

The film feels high budget and glossy in parts, but other parts of the composition were lacking.

It opens with an emotive establishing drone shot of Johannesburg and the colour is treated with care. A big salute should be given to the person responsible for grading and after effects. The thing with using drone shots as much as the industry does is that it becomes boring.

Parts of the edit seem to skip out too much in a time line. We’ll see a drugged Zama on a bed, cut to a game of poker, and then see Zama at the bottom of some stairs. I also didn’t enjoy Zama’s thoughts being used as narration throughout the film. It felt off.

The writing also holds Zama back. Mbau is a beast of an actress but only hits top gear at the end of the film when her character hatches a ploy to get revenge.

If the whole film played out like the last quarter of it, we would have a smash release on our hands.

But, right now, Red Room is better left watched on the telly.

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