Tsotsi (2005): ***½
Directed by Gavin Hood
I feel kinda guilty for not giving this film four stars, because
it's an "important" and "powerful" film and
all that, but honestly it isn't really my kind of film.
Just look through my reviews here and you'll see what kinds of films
I like to see; you're not going to see very many serious foreign
As such, while I appreciate that this is a very well-made movie
and is very effective at what it does, I still didn't enjoy it as
much as I enjoy movies like The Incredibles or Kill
Bill or Intolerable Cruelty. Plus, I never intended
to see Tsotsi in the first place; Brandy got the time wrong
for the movie we had planned on seeing, so we saw this one instead.
Tsotsi, I learn, is the Afrikaans word for "thug," and
that's how the protagonist of the film certainly behaves. He's the
leader of a small posse of three other people who nightly go out
to rob people, and thinks nothing of murdering vicims who don't
cooperate. But after Boston, the posse member least in favor of
murdering, asks Tsotsi if he has any decency, Tsotsi responds with
a resounding negative by beating the tar out of Boston before fleeing
into the night.
He finds himself in a wealthy suburb where he shoots a woman in
the belly and steals her car. A few miles down the road he is shocked
to learn the car has a passenger—a baby in the backseat. Tsotsi
could have taken the baby to an orphanage, or a library, or even
perhaps left it in the car to be found (it didn't take police very
long to find the missing car), but Tsotsi doesn't think like that.
He stole the car, so the car was his; the baby was in the car, so
now the baby is his.
Tsotsi subconsciously transfers all of his own feelings of childhood
abuse and abandonment (which we get to see in a very disturbing
flashback involving his mother, his father, and a dog) to the baby.
Without knowing it himself (for he is far too simple to think philosophically),
he feels that by protecting this baby he will somehow be able to
make up for his own rotten childhood.
But that begs the question, how does someone who has known only
violence and crime for his entire life take care of a needy, defenseless
Tsotsi eventually finds a somewhat-solution to his problem in a
young widow who is suckling her own baby. She develops what I can
only describe as Stockholm
Syndrome in regards to Tsotsi. Or maybe she just placates him
so he won't hurt her? I'm not sure, but I never completely bought
into their relationship. It seemed a little inauthentic compared
to the relationships Tsotsi and his posse members have.
At times the film frayed a bit and showed some aspects of amateurism
among the actors, but such moments were fleeting and the performances
from the youngsters were for the most part rather good.
Yes, this is a very good movie about how the baby gets the cold-blooded
killer to actually feel, for perhaps the first time in
his life since he himself was a little baby. And in the climax of
the film Tsotsi takes the first steps into becoming something more
than just a tsotsi. He actually starts to become a human being;
he gains what Boston called "decency."
But what the fu*k is it with filmmaker who think
it is okay not to have a dénoument at the end of a film?
The end of the film, while a really well-done shot, left me feeling
cut off with little sense of character resolution. The plot of the
film is over, but what do the characters think about what happened?
Films without dénouments piss me off to