More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look62.86%
Average: 37.14%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 5 user ratings

Latest Reviews

To the Ends of the Earth by Jay Seaver

Wood Job! by Jay Seaver

News of the World by Rob Gonsalves

Promising Young Woman by Rob Gonsalves

Wonder Woman 1984 by Rob Gonsalves

Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone by Rob Gonsalves

Mank by Rob Gonsalves

Wander Darkly by Rob Gonsalves

Stand In, The by Rob Gonsalves

MLK/FBI by alejandroariera

subscribe to this feed

Catch a Fire
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Lybarger

"Be careful what you wish for…"
4 stars

It’s a good thing that the stridency of Tim Robbins’ political views is matched by his talent as an actor. Thanks to the wonderfully nuanced performances that both he and Derek Luke (“Antoine Fisher”) give, “Catch a Fire,” a look at the evils of Apartheid-era South Africa, manages to be more nail-biting and thoughtful than didactic.

The film recounts how a black refinery foreman named Patrick Chamusso (Luke) ran afoul of the law for bombing he didn’t commit.

During the 1980s, Patrick, as depicted in the film, stays as far away from politics as he can. He even demands that his mother-in-law stop listening to illegal radio broadcasts from the African National Congress (ANC).

Despite a promising career and a rewarding pastime as a youth soccer coach, the anti-terrorist squads believe he’s the prime suspect and torture him. Supervising the harsh interrogations is Colonel Nick Vos (Robbins), who plays a masterful good cop while his subordinates administer the beatings.

As played by Robbins, Nick is creepy without resorting to a lot of eye-rolls and other stereotypical villain tics. Robbins’ towering frame and eerie confidence make Nick most frightening when he’s trying to seem benign.

This fellow even takes Patrick home with him to have dinner with the cop’s family in hopes of breaking the suspect. But before you think he’s recognized Patrick’s innocence, his men brutalize Patrick’s wife Precious (Bonnie Henna) to the point where Patrick makes a false confession.

Nick finally recognizes that he and his crew have punished the wrong man, but when the release Patrick, he quickly becomes the menace they feared. He joins the ANC’s armed wing and eagerly takes on a chance to get back at the society that endangered his family.

I was expecting a much more simplistic depiction Chamusso’s life when I discovered that it was written by Shawn Slovo and produced by Robyn Slovo. They're the daughters of anti-Apartheid activists Joe Slovo and Ruth First (who’s played by Robyn in the film).

Thankfully, both have gone to the trouble of making Patrick Chamusso and Nick Vos convincingly three-dimensional. Chamusso is a good worker, a caring coach and loving husband, but he’s also a philanderer. And his extramarital activity inadvertently leads to his arrest.

Vos honestly believes the dirty business he’s involved in is all that’s saving South Africa from Soviet domination, and you can see how the job is slowly tearing up his soul and his family.

Some of the sensitivity from Nick’s “good cop” act is genuine, so he becomes an oddly sympathetic, if still contemptible, figure in the end.

Luke proves a solid anchor for the film, convincingly aging ten years both physically and psychologically. It’s fascinating watching him go from an eager innocent to a vengeful guerilla.

Australian director Phillip Noyce has helmed a pair of Tom Clancy adaptations after making an international sensation with “Dead Calm.” Here he makes a film that as thrilling as anything he made in Hollywood but has characters that are a lot more interesting.

The real Patrick Chamusso appears at the end and brings us up to speed on his life. The one-time terrorist is now the jovial head of an orphanage. Noyce and Shawn Slovo might have benefited from explaining how Chamusso was able to overcome his hatred, but “Catch a Fire” is proof that revenge may be a dish that’s best not served at all.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/30/06 17:50:53
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2006 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/08/09 Jeff Wilder Great drama and great performances. Only drawback is a somewhat anticlimactic ending. 4 stars
4/20/08 roderick campani any human, even LYBARGER himself, does have his weaknesses. dont tell me you dont have one 4 stars
2/21/07 action movie fan decemt tale of radicalization-something of value (1957) was alot better 3 stars
2/05/07 William Goss Compelling true story of wronged man forced to do the right thing only stumbles at end. 4 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  27-Oct-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 30-Jan-2007



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Phillip Noyce

Written by
  Shawn Slovo

  Robert Hobbs
  Derek Luke
  Tim Robbins
  Bonnie Henna

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast