Boobs, guns and blatant, banal violence
Jyoti Mistry’s noir thriller may be trying to say something about violence in SA, but it gets lost in an achingly dull plot, writes Grethe Koen
Director: Jyoti Mistry Featuring: Alex McGregor, Desmond Dube Academic and director Jyoti Mistry’s latest feature, Impunity, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, is a Bonnie and Clyde take on the simmering threat of ultraviolence in South Africa.
It’s a promising premise and the opening scenes that splice images of violent events that dominated world headlines – like the Marikana massacre and Mozambican Mido Macia being dragged behind a police van – were jarring enough to make me sit upright in anticipation of a hard-hitting movie.
Unfortunately, it is all setup and no payoff.
We never get past guns, a prolific flashing of boobs, and an extremely dull police investigation story line, starring Vaneshran Arumugam and Desmond Dube, that never culminates in a way that satisfies the viewer.
The problem is that Mistry tries to drench each scene with importance. She deliberately drags her pace, letting her camera linger so long that it all becomes gratingly dull. At one point, the audience is subjected to five whole minutes of leading man Derren (Bjorn Steinbach) smoking on the couch and exchanging meaningful glances with an old flame.
When the next scene culminates in the two having sex, followed by an act of hyperviolence from leading lady Echo (Alex McGregor), I couldn’t help but let out an incredulous guffaw.
If Mistry is trying to say violence is so normal in South Africa that some of us are starting to get off on it, it’s a fascinating premise – but banally and very bluntly executed here.
Despite this, it would be unfair to say Mistry isn’t
MOVIE talented. There are some beautiful experimental shots of Derren and Echo on a beach that display an eye attuned to the aesthetic – an underwater shot with Echo’s hair drifting in the current, a close-up of a hand washing away blood, a bird’s-eye view of them lying foetus-like in a circle of seaweed.
And don’t think I am altogether derisive of boobs on screen – Mistry has managed to direct sex scenes that simmer. The lovemaking between Echo and Derren looks real, sensual and, well, sexy. Our local flicks often suffer from the cheesiest, most staged, cringeworthy sex captured on camera anywhere in the world.
Twenty-two-year-old McGregor (who starred in the Spud movies) is often spellbinding to watch.
But apart from these highlights, Impunity eventually just fizzles out. If you’ve got heaps of patience and can stomach gratuitous violence for the sake of seeing nice experimental shots, Impunity is for you.
BESIDE THE SEASIDE thriller Impunity Alex McGregor plays Echo in Jyoti Mistry’s noir