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Overall Rating
4.16

Awesome51.02%
Worth A Look: 18.37%
Average: 26.53%
Pretty Bad: 4.08%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 19 user ratings


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Tsotsi
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by EricDSnider

"Beauty and redemption in the nightmarish ghettoes of Johannesburg."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The sky over the ramshackle ghetto in "Tsotsi" is a dirty brown. Beneath it are shacks made of flimsy wood and tin. There's smoke and filth everywhere. It's hell on earth. What better setting for a tale of redemption?

"Tsotsi" is a slang term for a thug in Johannesburg, and it's the only name the film's protagonist (played by Presley Chweneyagae) goes by. So long has the young man been parentless, directionless and given to delinquency that no one knows his real name. He's a tsotsi, nothing more.

With his fellow hoodlums and devoted followers Boston (Mothusi Magano), Butcher (Zenzo Ngqobe) and Aap (Kenneth Nkosi), Tsotsi makes his living through theft. Boston, who was supposedly once a teacher, is horrified when a simple robbery on a subway train turns into murder; for voicing his objection, Tsotsi beats him savagely.

One night Tsotsi steals a woman's car only to find her baby boy in the backseat. He leaves the car on the roadside -- when police find it the next day, it has been completely stripped as if by a swarm of locusts -- and takes the baby home. He has no idea what to do with a wailing infant, but fashions a diaper out of newspapers and gives him some condensed milk. When his gang members come by, he hides the kid under the bed and feigns illness to get out of hanging out with them. He has to figure out how to deal with the baby.

If there's one thing that can take the beastliness out of a brute like Tsotsi, it's fatherhood, which of course is where the movie's theme of redemption come in. Unable to handle the baby on his own, Tsotsi accosts a neighbor woman who has a baby, too, and forces her at gunpoint to nurse little David (as the stolen baby comes to be called). She would do it willingly, but the only way Tsotsi knows how to get what he wants is by force. Soon he and the woman, Miriam (Terry Pheto), bond over the child, with Tsotsi beginning to realize the need for reform in his life.

Director Gavin Hood, who adapted the film from Athol Fugard's novel, makes his points subtly, without the underlining that usually goes on in movies about characters in need of change. Tsotsi is a thug of few words, and newcomer Presley Chweneyagae portrays him in simple terms: He's a cold-hearted villain, and over time he gradually becomes less so. No epiphanies, no one moment that changes his life, just a gradual learning process.

Together with cinematographer Lancer Gewer, Hood paints the shantytown and nearby Johannesburg in stark, grim colors, occasionally lightened to accompany an instruction from Miriam on the purpose of art or a tender moment involving the babies. You can feel the oppressive and dark amorality of Tsotsi's life, just as clearly as you can feel his eventual reformation. This is an uncommonly moving film, with almost no fireworks to highlight the parts that are supposed to be moving.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12599&reviewer=247
originally posted: 03/06/06 20:02:20
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Portland Film Festival For more in the 2006 Portland Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/27/09 Abhishek Chakraborty Takes a little while to set up the characters, but then gets pretty interesting to watch. 5 stars
6/24/09 mr.mike Well worth your time. Hood's direction and the acting are fine. 4 stars
5/28/08 PAUL SHORTT A HEARTWARMING STORY OF REDEMPTION SURE TO WIN ANYONE OVER IN THE END 5 stars
8/19/07 Steve Newman This film is totally believable apart forom the baby plot! SA looks a fu@@ed place! 3 stars
6/01/07 Anton A City of God wannabe, this is a disappointingly tedious and manipulative experience. 2 stars
11/16/06 Phil M. Aficionado Too many moments where one questions, would THIS happen?; but sincere and well-meaning 4 stars
5/07/06 David J not so much a good rendition of Athol Fugards brilliant play 5 stars
5/03/06 Robert I really wanted to love this movie. But it was completely overwrought and contrived. Shame. 2 stars
4/25/06 john bale Superb cast and beautfully crafted, a moving and passionate experience. 5 stars
3/28/06 Danny Johanson Very good, a bit odd at parts, otherwise great. 4 stars
3/13/06 koketso ndlovu i think is a brilliant 5 stars
3/07/06 Greg Ursic A stunning achievement. 5 stars
9/29/05 E. Northam Astonishing music; compelling, visceral, heart-wrenching story of a young thug's redemption 5 stars
8/25/05 Angry Hank Best African movie ever 5 stars
8/20/05 isabel excellent! thoroughly enjoyable but also interesting and challenging. 5 stars
8/20/05 Francis Gannon Surprisingly moving 5 stars
8/19/05 Jenny Walker Best South African film yet 5 stars
8/16/05 Tom Winchester Very moving 5 stars
8/04/05 Lance Gewer Brilliant! Absorbing! Must See! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  24-Feb-2006 (R)
  DVD: 18-Jul-2006

UK
  17-Mar-2006

Australia
  13-Apr-2006



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