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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 Lybarger

"Why does this movie work? Location, location, location."
4 stars

If Gavin Hood’s Oscar-winning film “Tsotsi” were set in suburban America and featured name actors, audiences would find it unbearably sentimental and clichéd. But by placing the tale in contemporary Soweto and Johannesburg, South Africa, Hood imbues the film with a sense of authenticity that makes the movie seem more moving than manipulative.

In fact, the novel by Athol Fugard that Hood has adapted for the film dates back to 1960. Somehow, Hood and his cast make the story relevant and even urgent.

The title character (played with astonishing skill by relative novice Presley Chweneyagae) easily lives up to his moniker, which means thug or gangster in Zulu. In a single evening, he does nothing when his aptly named pal Butcher (Zenzo Ngqobe) stabs a fellow they’ve been mugging to death. Tsotsi later beats his partner in crime named Boston (Mothusi Magano) so badly that the latter may be scarred for life.

Whereas most gangsters might end their evening at that point, Tsotsi wanders into a suburb of Johannesburg and steals a wealthy woman’s car and shoots her as she gets away.

His spree comes to an abrupt end when he discovers the woman’s baby is still in the car’s back seat. From here, Tsotsi gradually develops a conscience and takes a difficult path toward resolving the situation. To keep the setup credible, Hood presents the bleak squalor of township life with an unflinching eye. He also wisely ends the tale on an ambiguous note. Tsotsi may be on a path away from wickedness, but his life and the lives of the others he encounters won’t get any easier.

The early sequences of “Tsotsi” present the violence in his world in brief but shocking detail. As a result, it’s easier to believe what happens later. Hood also creates a convincing back story that illustrates how Tsotsi could fall so easily.

Good acting doesn’t hurt either. Chweneyagae effortlessly moves from being a cold-eyed criminal to staring in wonder at the baby in front of him. Terry Pheto is terrific as a single mother whom Tsotsi recruits at gunpoint to help him take care of the child. She becomes a surrogate mother to both the baby and the gangster who abducted him.

Israel Makoe deserves special credit for convincingly playing what has to be one of the most sadistically terrifying fathers in screen history.

The film also boasts a great soundtrack full of tunes that fit the action nicely, but the most admirable trait of “Tsotsi” is that its sentimental moments earn every emotion they are designed to elicit.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12599&reviewer=382
originally posted: 04/23/06 07:05:51
[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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