Talking Movies: Knuckle City, Edge of Democracy and An Act of Defiance

Spling reviews Knuckle City, Edge of Democracy and An Act of Defiance as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a local sports crime drama thriller, a political documentary and a historical biopic.

Starting off with a film now on circuit…


An aging, womanizing professional boxer and his career-criminal brother take one last shot at success.

Writer-Director: Jahmil X.T. Qubeka

Stars: Bongile Mantsai, Thembikile Komani and Owen Sejake

– this is a personal film for Qubeka, taking place in his hometown of Mdantsane, East London
– known for developing some of the greatest boxing champions in South Africa, the tough neighbourhood has seen some of the best pugilists emerge over the years
– tracking with one such fighter and his rite of passage, the town serves as a character in Knuckle City
– this is a visceral, intense and relentless boxing crime drama thriller that uncovers the lives of two brothers who find themselves adopting typical life narratives in the East London town
– sharp editing, breathtaking cinematography and a defiant spirit drives this in-your-face coming-of-age film
– grappling with the day-to-day struggles and the city’s cutthroat boxing circuit, Qubeka’s film captures the scrappy, violent and streetwise atmosphere
– a strong ensemble effort with many full tilt and exciting performances, it’s an entertaining, furious and edgy undertaking
– dark, violent, gritty and bold, once it takes a bite it never lets go
– the film has been criticised for its display of toxic masculinity, which may be unintentionally glorified on screen
– the testosterone-fuelled saga may not do itself any favours in terms of its aggressive, pumped up approach, but there’s no denying Qubeka’s talent and vision for this gut-busting and intense boxing film

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a film streaming on Netflix…


Political documentary and personal memoir collide in this exploration into the complex truth behind the unraveling of two Brazilian presidencies.

Writer-Director: Petra Costa

Stars: Dilma Rousseff, Luiz Lula da Silva and Marisa Lula da Silva

– This Oscar-nominated documentary unpacks Brazil’s fragile and corrupt democracy, through the tireless efforts of a people’s hero in Lula
– uncovering the political icon’s rise to power and subsequent fall from grace, we get a fascinating behind-the-scenes examination of a country with a history of corruption, desperately trying to find a balance between the rich and the poor
– introducing education and financial relief reforms during his time as president, the man known as Lula handed over the reins to Rousseff, who marked a progressive and strong new direction for the country that had reduced its unemployment and become a rapidly growing world economy
– much like several political upheavals around the world, it seemed that the media had a strong influence giving rise to a new political slant with comparisons to Trump
– through unprecedented news footage, interviews, home videos and the writer-director’s narration, we get a comprehensive and clearer picture of the dire situation
– Lula’s powerful speech about his ideas enduring beyond his incarceration is both moving and soul-stirring, echoing much of the sentiment behind this haunting film
– while it may feel long at 2 hours, it’s a compelling, eye-opening, insightful and important documentary with lessons that can be applied far and wide

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

And finally a film now on Showmax…


A lawyer struggles to hide his secret affiliation in his defence of men deemed to be a threat to Apartheid-ruled South Africa.

Writer-Director: Jean van de Velde

Stars: Peter Paul Muller, Antoinette Louw and Ilse Bezuidenhout

– usually taken from the perspective of Mandela, this refreshing account of the Rivonia trial adopt’s Fischer’s standpoint as a family man living a double life
– serving as an earnest dramatisation of the infamous court case, it’s a well-researched and respectable effort
– as a political thriller, the story isn’t anything new, having been the focus of several films and documentaries already
– while it features some solid acting talent, the attempt to make it look of the age, unfortunately gives it a TV film quality
– operating on a modest budget, it’s commendable yet doesn’t carry the prestige factor one would have hoped for such an important drama
– the choice to shoot with naturalistic lighting in some dark interiors seems wayward and while the casting is noble, it could have been better
– the biographical and historical drama covers the events, but struggles to connect with its lead as his brave efforts and actions never amount to a greater intimacy with the character
– you can appreciate his predicament and sacrifices, yet the intensity and stakes are rarely felt, making him come across as aloof
– the pacing is slow, not unlike a TV miniseries, covering the court case in an authentic way yet lacking the sense of critical decision-making and urgency to create suspense
– it’s a noble effort for the patient, serving as a reasonable attempt at bringing history alive, yet often feels a bit too safe for its own good

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

KNUCKLE CITY… a live-wire ensemble spur this in-your-face, energetic, visceral and testosterone-fueled boxing crime thriller… A solid 7!

EDGE OF DEMOCRACY… a comprehensive, compelling, haunting and moving political documentary about Lula’s Brazil… A solid 7!

AN ACT OF DEFIANCE… a modest, earnest, slow-moving and noble biographical historical legal drama… A satisfactory 6!

For more movie reviews, interviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit splingmovies.com.

And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!