There’s been a lot of yarpie bashing here lately. And quite rightly so. They really are so bashable. But in the interests of fair play, can I draw your attention to a great little South African (SA) noir action movie, Stander? Ja? Hank yew?
(2003. Colour. Script: Bima Stagg. Direction: Bronwen Hughes. Cinematography: Jess Hall. Score: David Holmes and Neil Sparkes plus an eclectic mix of old, new and just out there first and third world pop songs.)
Despite the crappy cover, Stander is really worth a punt at your local movie mart if you’re into gritty yet stylish crime thrillers with sly humour and some unexpected twists in the tale.
Firstly because it’s based on a true story that would be unbeliveable if it was presented as fiction. Andre Stander’s short and colorful life was sorta like the Postcard Bandit meets Roger Rogerson meets Ned Kelly - but as a wild colonial boy in a wig and false ‘tache hooning in a yellow Porsche Targa through the streets of Jo’burg after knocking over yet another bank...sometimes the same one twice in the same day. Yes, that really happened, amongst many other Stander outrages against the public order.
Secondly because it is a beautifully shot flick. Think Michael Mann’s Heat or Collateral set in 70s South Africa. OK, take your time to digest that concept. I’m talking stunning landscapes intercut with super kitsch period interiors, all shot with crisp cool and deft but subtle emotional angles. A lotta thought was put into making the scenery and sets help carry the story here. And this flick sounds great too. The soundtrack effortlessly segues between cool black African music and really ball the wall rock. (I'd nominate Stander for best use of an Iggy and the Stooges song in a bank heist.)
Thirdly, it’s got both an excellent script and plot (No Virginia, they’re not the same thing.) They take a bit of license with the original story, but not that much, and only really to deliver a couple of clever twists at the end.
Fourthly, it’s got some really kiff acting man. Deborah Unger’s in there as the main boy’s love interest, all fiery cheekbones and nude conscience wrestling. Ashley Taylor plays it very low key yet with a lot of power as Stander’s former best friend and fellow cop ordered to shoot him on sight ‘cos Stander’s brazen outlawry has utterly humiliated the SA police/security establishment. There’s Marius Weyers, last clearly spotted as the male lead in “The Gods Must Be Crazy”, who is also pretty damn good as the aging SA Police General looking for religious consolation to deal with a son turned rogue elephant.
And the always entertaining Dexter Fletcher as Stander’s unstable Aussie sidekick - who fails to escape as disguised a Hassidic Rabbi escourted by his shapely blonde shoplifting “niece” when he could, and instead checks out permanently in a blaze of glory, facing down a SWAT tean while sporting nothing but two pistols and a pair of silk boxer shorts.
However the actor really using more than enough gun here is Thomas Jane, who is brillant as Stander himself, the smart, cocky and charismatic SA police detective on the fast track to the top. But who then has a ”fuck it all” moment after shooting an unarmed man in a riot and instead becomes SA’s greatest bank robber, a master of disguise and subversive media folk hero. Basically Stander is sorta like a Wilbur Smith/Robert Ruark anti-hero - a tough bastard who turns on a immoral and corrupt society...and one that's so regardless of skin colour. This flick's subtext is that apartheid fucked up everyone from Afrikaans Police Generals to Soweto gang leaders.
However it’s no bleeding heart movie. Appalling and violent behaviour comes in all colours here. But essentially it's a shit-hot, wryly funny and sunny noir thriller with stunning action sequences, set in a strange and beautiful land at a time when everyone had problems seeing their own worlds in black and white. And yes, it is a TRUE STORY. Weird place, weird times, weird guy, weird life, great flick.
GrogFlog’s verdict “Everyone else is on riot duty now? A white man could get away with anything today!" 8 out of 10 hi-speed getaways in blond wigs.
Viewer tip: There’s no subtitle option on the Stander DVD I watched and those yarpie accents do get up your nose a bit.
Coming soon: Yeah, yeah, I will get around to the irradiated Oliver Reed and James Coburn on acid flicks eventually. But after watching Stander, I sorta feel like shooting up a really bad and corrupt film now. Any recommendations? The winning suggestion scores a free hyperlink to IMDB.