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…
EDGE OF DEMOCRACY
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…
AN ACT OF DEFIANCE
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!