Vuil Wasgoed is an Afrikaans crime caper turned buddy movie starring Bennie Fourie and Bouwer Bosch and directed by Morne du Toit. The story follows Wim and Kevin, two best friends working a laundromat with the dream of opening a coffee shop. Using their customer’s clothes to attend parties, they discover a severed finger in a jacket, which soon draws them into a dangerous feud among a family of criminals, who all want the finger back.
Vuil Wasgoed features a broad and stellar South African cast comprised of: Bennie Fourie, Bouwer Bosch, Simone Nortmann, Leandie du Randt Bosch, Nico Panagio, Stiaan Smith, Charlie Bouguenon and Tim Theron. Fourie and Bosch, which sound a lot like Ferrari and Porsche, have a great knack for comedy and serve as the co-leads in this knockabout comedy crime caper. Simone Nortmann and Leandie du Randt Bosch are capable of playing leading lady roles as they did in Vir Die Voels and Jagveld respectively, but take a back seat in Vuil Wasgoed, off-setting the male-centric ensemble as love interests. It’s good to see Panagio flexing his chops with a more tongue-in-cheek performance, Smith is sharp in an unassuming role, we get a strong dose of Bouguenon, while Theron’s frame is imposing and his demeanor unflinching.
Ordinarily, this film would have been a stoner comedy in the same ballpark as Pineapple Express with James Franco and Seth Rogen. In fact, if you bypass the twist of marijuana humour, it’s quite likely that they used this and other similar films as a reference point for the original short film. However, while fairly violent from time to time, there’s a Bill & Ted naïveté at play making allowances for nostalgic pop culture throwbacks to indicate our co-leads are essentially adult teenagers. Fourie and Bosch have got good chemistry, something that Vuil Wasgoed thrives on and uses to smooth over rough edges. What Fourie’s screenplay lacks in focus, it makes up for with humour, providing a number of great comic setups and some genuinely funny dialogue.
Working class heroes.
Vuil Wasgoed is likable, enjoyable and even entertaining for the most part. Trying to encompass many characters, giving each of the actors enough screen time in an attempt to draw together several subplot strands to form a cohesive ensemble comedy, while entertaining several genres is no easy feat. While the filmmakers are playing to their strengths, working within their means and creating something fresh by way of its Hollywood transplanted in South Africa vibe, Vuil Wasgoed is off-kilter and scattershot.
One can’t help but feel that much of this can be attributed to the decision to start proceedings with the crime family meltdown. While this violent ordeal gets the film rolling with a jolt instead of a joint, it starts on the wrong foot. Giving the central duo sideshow status offsets the balance of the buddy movie dynamic, which becomes the film’s life juice. This creates a strange tension between the two competing stories as the ruthless and violent crime caper pulls in the opposite direction to the lightweight, fun-filled buddy misadventure.
Luckily, the good outweighs the bad and the film has enough spirit and star power to keep us rooting for Wim and Kevin. We want them to fulfill their dream, continue their bromance and find love… and nothing, even free-ranging and far-fetched storytelling, can stop them from winning the day. As such, it’s a bubbly and fun crime comedy caper, which is made all the better for focusing on the co-leads. Turning it into a stoner comedy would have given them much more licence to blend violence and playful comedy. While more conservative than its influences in terms of drug-fueled escapades, it still maintains some edge and flair without becoming overly anonymous.
The bottom line: Fun