Gangster's Paradise: Jerusalema

"Very Good"

Gangster's Paradise: Jerusalema Review


Bold, energetic and extremely complicated, this epic thriller is an eye-opening exploration of how a warped free-market turned Johannesburg into the crime capital of the world. It's long and exhausting, but strikingly well-made.

Lucky Kunene (Mamabolo then Seiphemo) grew up in poverty in Soweto with his pal Zakes (Mahloko then Nyakale). Usually in trouble for something minor, local criminal Nazareth (Zekele) takes them under his wing and teaches them more serious stuff, which they take to naturally. But Lucky's conscience keeps getting the best of him, and he eventually ends up in Johannesburg, where being the victim of a crime inspires him to combine charity with money-making. As he builds an empire as a "property developer", he makes enemies on both sides of the law.

As the story progresses, two nemeses emerge who challenge Lucky's position. And that's not including his disapproving, deeply religious mother. On one side is the tenacious Detective Swart (Hobbs), still stinging from his loss of power as a white cop, not that he defers to anyone. On the other is a Nigerian drug dealer (Shenjana) who is like a stain on Lucky's efforts to make life better for the poor city residents.

And it's this disparity that becomes the most interesting thing about the film: the way Lucky is actually trying to do something good and challenge the callous slumlords who leave the buildings to rot. On the other hand, he is also making rather a lot of illicit cash through this scheme, enough to attract an upscale Jewish girlfriend (Meskin). In other words, Lucky isn't a bad guy, even though his methods bend the law to the breaking point. But his friends indulge in rather a lot more brutality.

The fact that we root for him without being supportive of his methods makes watching the film a charged experience. Writer-director Ziman fills the screen with snappy visuals, high-energy action and the constant threat of violence.

The shifting alliances between the characters are powerfully gripping, and even if some local knowledge is needed to understand the film's subtleties, it's a revelatory look into a complex society. And perhaps at Africa's real future.



Gangster's Paradise: Jerusalema

Facts and Figures

Genre: Foreign

Run time: 119 mins

In Theaters: Friday 29th August 2008

Distributed by: Anchor Bay Films

Production compaines: Muti Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Fresh: 15 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Ralph Ziman

Producer: Ralph Ziman, Tendeka Matatu

Starring: Daniel Buckland as Josh Freidlander, as Inspector Blakkie Swart, as Lucky Kunene, Jeffrey Zekele as Nazareth, Ronnie Nyakale as Zakes Mbolelo, Shelley Meskin as Leah Friedlander (as Shelly Meskin), Malusi Skenjana as Tony Ngu, Jafta Mamabolo as Young Kunene, Motlatsi Mahloko as Young Zakes, Kenneth Nkosi as Lucas Sithole, Lerato Moloi as Loretta Dlamini, Thandy Matlaila as Young Nomsa, Mzwandile Ngubeni as Young Bull, Gladys Mahlangu as Mama Kunene

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