A tri­umph in su­per­fi­cial­i­ties

Hyped new crime thriller Hard To Get opens na­tion­wide this Fri­day. It’s all for­mu­laic ac­tion, ques­tion­able girl power and sweaty flesh in slo-mo. Even so, it may mark a sig­nif­i­cant devel­op­ment in the lo­cal in­dus­try. Two Trend­ing crit­ics weigh in

CityPress - - Opportunity index - – Roger Young

Film: Hard To Get Direc­tor: Zee Ntuli Star­ring: Pal­lance Dladla, Thishiwe Ziqubu, Is­rael Makoe Hard To Get is a crit­i­cal fish in a bar­rel. It’s al­most too easy to take it apart. Direc­tor Zee Ntuli’s de­but fea­ture is a dub­step Bon­nie and Clyde set in “the gritty un­der­belly” of Joburg. It is fast and fu­ri­ous, and chock-full of slow mo­tion fight se­quences, deep mean­ing­ful stares, guns, neon lights and empty streets. It is a tri­umph in su­per­fi­cial­i­ties. The strong fe­male lead is a con­glom­er­a­tion of pro­jected male de­sires. It is a gangsta fan­tasy that reads as an over­com­pen­sa­tion for post­strug­gle male in­se­cu­ri­ties.

To be fair, I never quite fig­ured out what the plot was. TK (Pal­lance Dladla) is a hand­some dude in a small­town bar. Ski­ets (Thishiwe Ziqubu), a hot woman who op­er­ates per­pet­u­ally in slow-mo, walks in and they spon­ta­neously steal a car from a bad guy called Mugza (Is­rael Makoe), who chases them to Joburg where they f**k shit up. So far, so Afda Tarantino.

It’s a good two-thirds of the film in be­fore the two leads have an ac­tual con­ver­sa­tion. Not that con­ver­sa­tion is a pre­req­ui­site for good film – it’s just that among all the flash of Hard To Get, there is very lit­tle re­flex­iv­ity and very lit­tle that the film gives us other than slick­ness. It is an en­ter­tain­ment – and an empty one at that.

But for all the de­ri­sion, I pre­dict that peo­ple will turn up to see it. It’s fast-paced, sexy, with just enough lo­cal id­ioms and lo­ca­tion to lend it a fleet­ing sense of au­then­tic­ity, but not too much to alien­ate for­eign view­ers.

In short, Hard To Get is ex­actly the film the Na­tional Film and Video Foun­da­tion has been try­ing to make for the past 10 years. It is all sound and dub­step, sig­ni­fy­ing noth­ing, ex­cept per­haps box of­fice re­turns. It is slick trash done com­pe­tently. It is no more su­per­fi­cial than the best of Hol­ly­wood main­stream. Hard To Get could be an im­por­tant film for South African cinema. There can be no self-sus­tain­ing art house or al­ter­na­tive cinema in South Africa with­out a main­stream. Hard To Get is noth­ing if it is not qual­ity. That it at­tains this qual­ity though su­per­fi­cial means does not make it less valid cinema. While it cer­tainly de­liv­ers on drama and ac­tion, with the same kind of for­mu­laic plot and mas­cu­line stereo­types as iNum­ber Num­ber, it does so with much more con­fi­dence and dub­step. Ntuli grabs the au­di­ence by the back of the neck and forces them to come along for the ride.

In fact, Hard To Get might be the most sig­nif­i­cant com­mer­cial lo­cal film since Mr Bones 2 – and should it suc­ceed at the box of­fice, it would go a long way to­wards prov­ing that the Na­tional Film and Video Foun­da­tion’s ap­proach to film devel­op­ment can build the in­dus­try (if not the ac­tual art) of South African-voiced film mak­ing. Should it fail, it goes a long way to prov­ing the op­po­site.

The foun­da­tion, in con­cert with other state bod­ies, re­cently an­nounced an Emerg­ing Black Film Mak­ers’ Fund to pro­duce seven films a year. Should films like Hard To Get start be­ing pro­duced at that rate, some artis­tic rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of the tropes the foun­da­tion’s cinema has been lit­tered with is bound to oc­cur. That then would be a rea­son to cel­e­brate. On its own, Hard To Get is a slick, hy­per­mas­cu­line piece of en­ter­tain­ment that will fade into in­signif­i­cance.

How­ever, as a model for the mar­ket that the foun­da­tion is try­ing to open up, it’s their best ef­fort yet. Oh, and did I men­tion the dub­step?

GANGSTA FAN­TASY Pal­lance Dladla and Thishiwe Ziqubu in Hard To Get

BOYS ON

FILM Direc­tor Zee Ntuli (right) and baddie of the year Is­rael Makoe

(left)

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