Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tsotsi (2005)

Compelling and startling, "Tsotsi" chronicles a young thug in Johannesburg's surprising redemption. The somewhat quick development of the violent main character strains credulity, but the storytelling is so earnest (and the acting is so convincing) that it should suck in even the most hard-hearted cynic.

   "Tsotsi," whose name simply means 'thug,' is a man without hope, without love, without a future or aspirations higher than being a ruthless criminal. He is played with dead-eyed determination by virtual unknown Presley Chweneyagae, in a performance so good you wonder where this guy has been for the last ten or so years. Tsotsi is part of a violent gang, and mercilessly abuses those around him, commanding control in spite of his non-threatening appearance.

   When Tsotsi shoots a woman during a car-jacking and drives away with an unnoticed infant in the backseat, he is thrust into the role of caretaker that he never could have anticipated. But what can a gang member and murderer do for a newborn? Your maternal instincts will cry out as Tsotsi keeps the baby in a paper shopping bag and allows it's face to get dirty and crawl with ants.

   Gradually, something changes- Tsotsi is finally living for someone other than himself. His heart begins to ache, memories of his abusive childhood flood in. He forces a young mother (Terry Pheto) to serve a wet nurse for the newborn, and they build an unusual rapport. Meanwhile, the injured mother (Pumla Dube) of the baby desperately tries to locate her missing child.

   I'm glad the movie didn't take the easy way out and go with a sensationalistic ending. Director Gavin Hood knows how to build a tense climax without overplaying his hand, and I appreciate him for it. The acting was all around very good, and the script was strong.

   I guess the only problem I had with the film was that the premise was far-fetched. I honestly thing that a character like Tsotsi, if he was unable to kill the child, would have left in the car rather than taking the responsibility of caring for it (or trying to) upon himself. Anyway, if anyone can make us believe in Tsotsi, it's the talented Chweneyagae. "Tsotsi" is an interesting and well-made film, and definitely worth a watch for lovers of international moviemaking.

1 comment:

  1. I liked this movie. I agree that the premise was pretty implausible, but they made it work.


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