The first Miramax release since the Weinsteins left the company, "Tsotsi" followed greatly in their footsteps, winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Picture. A South African film about a thug who becomes something better, "Tsotsi" deserves every chocolate ounce of that golden statue.
Presley Chweneyagae stars as the title character, a young man who was lost in a dangerous world as a child. Years have past since he fled from his abusive father, and he is now a ruthless thug, a man who goes from one crime to the next with his small gang, stealing and killing to make a living. His violence takes him one step too far, however, when he shoots a woman and steals her car - only to discover too late that her baby is still in the back seat. On the verge of abandoning the child for someone to find, he instead decides to take it home with him in a paper bag.
"Tsotsi" is about healing from a lifetime of misery, and if that sounds cheesy I'm sorry, as there isn't a cheesy moment about the film. Director Gavin Hood successfully draws you into his film and immediately makes you hate the main character for what he has done, but slowly allows you warm up to him. Tsotsi's transformation from thug to something else entirely is a spellbinding one, as you watch as the baby changes his life. This is the first time Tsotsi had anything to care for, and it works wonders for him - but that doesn't mean it just flips a switch, either.
Of course, all the credit can't go to the director. Chweneyagae delivers an excellent performance as the lead. The character is complicated and doesn't say much, but Chweneyagae pulls it off perfectly. The final scene of the movie, though simple and almost predictable, is powerful to say the least, and it's all thanks to Chweneyagae.
There really isn't a flaw in the movie, despite the fact the film comes from a country not known for their movie industry. The screenplay, directing and acting are all top notch, and "Tsotsi" is one of the more memorable films of 2005. Highly recommended (and for those of you who hate subtitles, the movie is in Afrikaans, so you'll recognize about a third of the words as they are close to English).
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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