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Overall Rating

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

5 reviews, 19 user ratings

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by brianorndorf

"Lovely,with a side of punch-in-the-mouth"
5 stars

An Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film, “Tsotsi” is a harrowing, wonderful South African story about the ability of a criminal to change his ways. Expertly acted and directed, this small delight doesn’t take the easy route to redemption, and leaves a large emotional mark on the viewing audience.

An uncommunicative, vicious thug roving the impoverished shantytowns of South Africa, Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae) has been hardened by years of parental abandonment and his cold-blooded crimes. After beating one of his crew nearly to death, Tsotsi runs away, eventually carjacking a rich woman, shooting her, and unknowingly taking off with her infant son. Captivated with the purity of spirit in the child, the criminal is soon confronted with his own conscience, taking Tsotsi on a journey of profound regret as he tries to change his criminal ways, looking to the baby as a second chance at a life of decency.

Gavin Hood’s “Tsotsi” (based on a novel) succeeds not only as a drama, but also as a piece of modern filmmaking that gives a new urgency to the stories that are still to be told from South Africa. While not hipster, flashy filmmaking found in the similar “City of God” or “Kontroll,” “Tsotsi” feels alive in every frame, at first through convention, and then through a gradually revealing and heartfelt storyline of redemption.

Seen through the eyes of actor Chweneyagae, Tsotsi is a road map of trouble. Here is a man at first unrepentant about his crimes, willingly prowling the streets looking for victims that he and his crew often end up killing in the process of trying to squeeze a few bucks out of them. In his film debut, Chweneyagae is outstanding, able to convey the despondency of a criminal life with the smallest expression, powerfully captured by Hood and his production crew. With the introduction of the baby in Tsotsi’s life, Chweneyagae and Hood resist shortcuts through the film that would take the character to greener pastures quickly. Tsotsi’s journey to enlightenment is much more deliberate than that, and the audience can feel every lingering razor blade the character swallows as he comes to terms with the terror of the man he’s become. Hood offers some explanation for Tsotsi’s behavior, but doesn’t romanticize the character. In Chweneyagae’s interpretation, Tsotsi is finally able to confront his dark childhood through the infant’s presence, and uses this time for personal inventory not to lament past horrors, but to find a new path for his wrongly directed life. It’s a disturbing, yet achingly poignant character arc.

Hood offers very little Disneyfication of the “Tsotsi” world, with most of the characters enraged and suffering in their own unique ways. While boosted at times by a lilting African choral score, “Tsotsi” remains a violent film, with characters that are not easily swayed by sentimentality. Hood creates a very vivid, almost apocalyptic world for this story, and his commitment to strong characterization is what keeps the film such a special viewing experience.

“Tsotsi” can be abrasive stuff, but the fierce, internalized salvation of the title character is a true inspiration, and makes for a resoundingly compelling South African treat.

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originally posted: 02/24/06 15:23:35
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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
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
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  24-Feb-2006 (R)
  DVD: 18-Jul-2006



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