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City of Violence
Genre Crime

City of Violence is an adaptation of the award-winning novel, Zulu, by Caryl Férey. The gritty crime drama thriller has been directed by Jérôme Salle and stars Orlando Bloom and Forest Whitaker. We're immersed into apartheid-era Cape Town, South Africa, where two policemen are investigating a massacre, apparently provoked by the availability of a new illegal drug.

Instead of a typical Hollywood buddy movie, we're presented with an artful crime drama that fights against these genre conventions by allowing the cops to work independent of one another. Much like Michael Mann's Heat, City of Violence pivots on these two central performances splaying their personal lives open, showing flawed characters whose circumstances are dictated by their unwavering commitment to their careers.

City of Violence aims high and creates a dangerous, suspenseful atmosphere, which at times borders on the surreal. The layered story widens and deepens as more characters and syndicates become involved until the weight of the film and intensity of the violence reach breaking point. While set in Apartheid-era South Africa, City of Violence draws on issues that still persist from drugs, gangland violence, corruption and governmental conspiracies.

We're invested in the plight of two characters, who while mostly rough, have enough of our curiosity and sympathy to warrant our attention. Orlando Bloom dives headlong with guns blazing into the role of Brian Epkeen, sinking his teeth into a hard-living character, whose undercover rock star persona drives the character. He's a complete opposite of his partner, Ali Sokhela, whose more private, calculated stance and persistence make him more like an accountant with a sketchy past than a bloodhound detective. Forest Whitaker delivers another solemn, grounded performance and while his South African accent isn't spot on, it's consistent.

City of Violence features a large South African ensemble of new and experienced actors, including Patrick Lyster, Tanya van Graan, Danny Keogh and Sven Ruygrok. The pick of the actors is undoubtedly Regardt van der Berg as De Beer, a hulking and intimidating villain whose screen presence is felt as if he was playing a gangster in a James Cagney movie.

It's refreshing to see a film based in our beautiful Cape Town and set against Table Mountain, venturing from Kirstenbosch Gardens to the townships. As a foreign director, Salle has addressed Cape Town from a universal standpoint, composing an untamed, beautiful and dangerous dog-eat-dog city. He keeps us on edge with a steady slew of diverse characters and bursts of violence against breathtaking backdrops.

City of Violence is a relentless crime drama thriller with one or two hiccups that break the tension and diminish the overall impact. This is most evident in the third act with a crucial knife's edge moment that could have been handled with more finesse. Ultimately, it doesn't derail the film and given the context could be open to a more symbolic interpretation. Nevertheless, it's great to see a mature South African film of this calibre.

The bottom line: Rugged

8.00/10 ( 2 Votes )
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