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Casino heist with a twist


South Africa has a high rate of violent crimes compared with most other countries. The rise of gated communities, private security companies and neighbourhood watch initiatives indicates that there's not much faith in the South African Police Service. The situation has called for special operation police squads to be deployed in ungovernable gangland areas like Manenberg in a similar capacity to the film, Elite Squad. With gangster prison drama in Noem My Skollie and Four Corners, armoured vehicle robberies being depicted in iNumber Number, one gets the impression that the local film industry is starting to use the prevalence of crime as inspiration.

Noem My Skollie

Many of Hollywood's best films deal with crime and grapple with the drama of casino heists, mafia bosses, murder, social injustice, violence and unrest. South Africa is riddled with crime stories waiting to be interpreted through the medium of film. While most of the crime drama thrillers coming out of South Africa take the perspective of a victim or perpetrator, it would be refreshing for a film-maker to represent the other side of the law for a change. The police may be ill-equipped and demoralised, but there are some success stories. For instance, when SAPS thwarted an attempted robbery at Emperors Palace Casino on the East Rand, Johannesburg in 2013.

Since film tends to imitate reality, stories such as this give us the inside scoop and convey the real stories of the gambling industry in South Africa. Being faced with these sort of crimes makes you understand why some people prefer the option of online casinos to physical ones. Similarly, to the medium of film, online gambling allows you to enjoy the experience on casinos without having to face the risky consequences.

The city of Johannesburg's sprawling network of freeways, billboards, buildings and spectacular lightning storms would make an epic backdrop for a film about a young detective trying to make a name for himself in the police force. After a tip-off leads to an investigation, he stumbles upon a planned heist as a gang of 15 men prepare for an early morning heist on a local casino. Descending on the casino, the gang armed with AK-47s and hand guns are met by a battalion of police as a spike strip blows out their vehicle's tyre and a shootout ensues at the casino's entrance. The tactical police force disarms and arrests 10 of the assailants, the flying squad engage in a car chase to apprehend another 4 suspects who flee in a mini bus and begin a manhunt to take down the 15th suspect hiding somewhere inside the casino complex.

This would make a thrilling casino heist film, one in which the good guys come out on top, saving civilians from an organised gang that wouldn't have hesitated in killing anyone who got in the way. While three people were wounded in the shootout, it's a miracle there weren't more causalities. Crime may seem rampant in South Africa, but instead of simply living with it, local screenwriters and directors should be using it to their advantage. Exposing some of the hard realities to international audiences may make the government more aware of the impact crime is having on local communities and ultimately tourism.