Tsotsi (2005)

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Interesting but occasionally clunky and melodramatic film that isn’t nearly as good as it wants you to think it is. Some of the plot feels rushed, the cinematography is often strange and over the top, the staging feels somewhat cartoon-like at times, and not all the characters’ actions/backstory make sense in the grand scheme of things, particularly at the end. But it’s an interesting concept, the setting is unique, and the acting is top-notch, especially from the lead “Tsotsi” guy. Oh, and the film is also kind of disturbing at times, and emotionally effective when it wants to be. It has its moments, in other words.

The style of the film is immediately off-putting. It gets better as it goes along, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was going for exactly. It feels kind of goofy at times, just the way it looks and the exaggerated way some of the characters talk and react to things and stuff, almost like it takes place in some kind of wacky cartoon gangster world or something. But the story is so graphic and adult, with nothing about it suggesting a need to have it shot and staged in such a goofy way. So, what gives? I didn’t get it. The film also feels very “written,” with everything being so deliberate, so structurally on the nose, that it all just feels forced. It’s annoying. And yet, it also feels rushed, with characters doing things you’d expect would have taken at least another 10 minutes or so of story to convincingly establish, like how **SPOILERS** the girl who the lead character forces to breastfeed the baby somehow starts to fall for him, even though just a few days (?) earlier he had a gun pointed to her head and essentially forced her to strip in front of him. **END SPOILERS** I understand that such a thing could happen, but that quickly? I don’t think so. And what was with that stupid flashback detailing the lead character’s back story? So dumb.

Overall, not a great film. Overblown and melodramatic, with weird, inappropriate tonal shifts and some questionable character decisions. But the film is well acted, and some shots are very beautiful and emotionally effective. And, again, the premise is interesting, just not very well executed. Can’t win ’em all, I guess. Not the best film I’ve ever seen, but nothing to make you want to gouge your eyes out in disappointment over. Probably.

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