The gripping credit sequence that kicks off this tale of South Africa’s most famous bank robber takes an aerial view of class disparity in 1976 Johannesburg, moving from the tops of office buildings over pool-dotted suburbia, finally hovering above the squalid sprawl of corrugated shacks. Thomas Jane plays another Punisher, a riot cop who sickens of his role meting out white-on-black terror, and embarks on a Robin Hood–like spree. With early set pieces—the title character’s wedding, which recalls Breaking the Waves‘ drunken nuptials, and the township clashes filmed with Bloody Sunday immediacy—director Bronwen Hughes (Forces of Nature) conjures an incendiary backdrop for Jane’s cool rendering of personal crisis. The first robbery is a convincing explosion of Stander’s frustration at white impunity. But then, in a sudden 180, Hughes abandons the wealth-redistribution theme, morphing the movie into a mere buddy flick about amoral fugitives on the road. Of all the tricky heists (Stander and pals manage a Scooby Doo–like array of quick changes), by far the most audacious remains the bait-and-switch that allows ’70s kitsch to abscond with the plot. But with no Tarantino-style reservoir of quips, these crooks’ mouths soon begin to seem like mere shelves for Anchorman mustaches. And though Jane aims for a double-Dutch cross between Neal Cassady and Clyde Barrow, deprived of the initial altruistic motivation, his bad-lieutenant Boer is just kind of a bore.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 27, 2004