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Movie review: Tsotsi April 19, 2008

Posted by ashiah in old.
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Tsotsi won the Oscar for best foreign film and now is forever engraved into the “That won an Oscar? It was good, but not that good” hall of fame. In some sense the critics are right. On one hand, there’s no reason not to like this film. The storytelling is compelling, emotional and well-acted. Unfortunately, it’s a bit cliched.

Tsotsi is about, well, Tsotsi – a young, merciless thug played by Presley Chweneyagae. After having an emotional and violent confrontation with a fellow gang member, feeling flustered and frustrated, he runs to an upper class neighborhood, shoots a woman and steals her car. It’s not until after he crashes the car that he realizes he overlooked the woman’s baby who was in the backseat. Not feeling badass enough to leave the baby there, he takes the baby home in a bag. Despite his naivete toward babies, he attempts to take care of the baby while changing his outlook on life and his thug ways.


Studies show hoodies increase badass-ness by 80 percent.

When Tsotsi first appears, he seems almost laughably cliche. He’s cold, merciless and not afraid to beat the crap out of his own friends. If this was a Takashi Miike film, he would be wearing sunglasses, a trench coat, and walking everywhere in slow motion. Of course, Tsotsi isn’t what he appears to be. There’s a slight ounce of gold in his heart, which is enough for the audience to feel empathetic. Tsotsi has a dark past that is told in flashbacks. On the outside he’s a ruthless thug, but inside he’s a crying little boy, etc etc. So what makes Tsotsi so different from other similar films? Nothing. The reason Tsotsi succeeds is because it takes a simple, old formula and does it well. It’s a good story with characters people care about. And to an extent, that’s all that is needed for a good film.

On the IMDb Tsotsi message board, there are plenty of comments comparing this film to City of God (for obvious, mildly racist reasons). Of course both have won Oscars and both deal with gang violence, but that’s all they have in common. If the IMDb users want to compare the two films just because there’s lots of brown people in them, then it says a lot about the IMDb users. You can’t compare the two because it belittles Tsotsi. Tsotsi isn’t nearly as ambitious as City of God, but it shines through its simplicity. Some people obviously can’t tell the difference. Not everything was made to be so complex.

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