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

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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

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