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Cold Harbour
Genre Crime
 
Review:

Cape Town is the setting for Cold Harbour, an African noir crime drama that centres on corrupt cops and the smuggling of abalone. While restrictions are in place, it seems the sea produce, known locally as perlemoen, is a valuable aphrodisiac in Asian markets. We journey with Sizwe Miya, a dedicated township warrants officer, who goes solo to solve a murder and stem the tide of an illegal fishing trade and criminal undercurrent.

Tony Kgoroge plays Sizwe, an upright policeman, who is confronted with a series of moral dilemnas. The closer he gets to cracking the case and being promoted to detective, the more heat he attracts from corrupt officials on the pay roll, bent cops, criminal kingpins and a persuasive femme fatale.

Kgoroge is a noble actor and you can't help but respect the man's good intentions as he tries to emerge from the cesspit of criminality unchanged. He delivers a determined and passionate performance as Miya, keeping a low profile as he knocks on the doors of the usual suspects.

This is a murky morality tale and with a title like Cold Harbour, it's not surprising that the film's overcast colour scheme is in tune with the cool tone of the drama. This stormy seriousness is carried into Kgoroge's hardened character, making him all business, no pleasure. He carries great dignity, but the gumshoe could have used more charm to get the audience to rally behind him.

This distancing is most noticeable when Kgoroge shares the screen with the cool yet cautious, Fana Mokoena, an old comrade and known criminal, Specialist. Being friends their chemistry is good and their sense of history is palpable, yet Mokoena comes across as more likable. You can see this comedy double dynamic working in a buddy cop movie.

Deon Lotz is Sizwe's police chief, Venske, adding considerable presence and conviction to a jaded supporting character. He's perfect for the role and it's just a pity they didn't make more of this subplot. Chinese actress and superstar, Yu Nan adds some sultry international appeal to the cast after a role in The Expendables 2, Thomas Gumede plays a cheeky, fresh-faced rookie and it's great to see Freshly Ground's Zolani Mahola on-screen.

Cold Harbour has film noir elements, which filter into the crime mystery drama at play. Director Carey McKenzie keeps the swirling mystery familiar yet taut with Sizwe's deepening involvement landing him in one complicated situation after another. While mostly character-driven and drama-orientated, there are a few thrilling action scenes thrown in to heighten the suspense and up the pace.

While local, the film has world-class production values and an inherent maturity thanks to writer-director, Carey McKenzie. As such, it's much more than a competent police procedural, delivering high standards, great shooting locations, a diverse range of curious characters and an intriguing detective story with a similar tone and pace to Roman Polanski's Ghost Writer.

Unfortunately, we're not emotionally invested in the lead character's plight, engrossed in the story or entirely convinced by the plotting by the time the credits roll. Cold Harbour has so much promise that it seems unfair that it didn't work out better. The film has all the earmarks of a solid crime drama, but we're kept at an arm's length and baffled by some of our hero's actions.

While Cold Harbour starts with great aplomb, it begins to unravel in the third act and then fast-forwards through a somewhat shaky, surprising and unsatisfactory ending. It's mostly disappointing because the film works so hard to establish its firm foundations and then boils down to an incomplete ending with some great finishes and gaping holes.

The bottom line: Disappointing


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