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In the early 1980's, a white police officer (Andres Stander, played by Thomas Jane) in Johannesburg suffers a crisis of conscience due to his involvement in apartheid and becomes a notorious bank robber on the run. Then from 1983 to 1984, the "Stander gang" (Stander, Alan Heyl & Patrick McCall) rob as many as four banks a day.Written by
The riot scenes were shot in Tembisa, where the real Andre Stander had been stationed on riot duty. The crew left most of the buildings as they were since they were old enough not to bear too many anachronisms. See more »
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but some of the car registration plates are from much later, even as far forward as the early-1990s. See more »
As a South African who's had to sit through a bunch of films on South Africa(ns) that made me cringe, I have to firstly send congratulations to the actors and dialogue coaches on achieving what has to be the first believable South African accents by international actors. Bravo! (Michael Caine and Sydney Poitier can take the the cotton-wool out their mouths now).
André Stander was a young police captain who in the early 80's robbed a string of banks while still in the employ of the South African Police Service. Finally caught, Stander spent time in jail before escaping to form a gang and continue the spree. His flamboyance, charm and cheek caught the imagination of the South African public who followed his exploits excitedly in the press and on tv. Well known for outfoxing the police through trickery, elaborate disguises and plain disregard for risk, he had people on the edge of their seat - most hoping he'd never get caught.
The movie sticks with the basic story and adds the usual Hollywood glam that while pumped up to fit in with other bank-robber fare, does not ruin the plot. From a beautifully shot opening sequence of an aerial view of Johannesburg, the film immediately sets up the great contrast of this city as existed in the apartheid 80's in the living conditions of the rich pool-and-tennis-court-suburbia(almost totally white) to the poor townships(non-white). A situation that while changing is still present today. Inner-city Johannesburg is the perfect place for a film of this era. The city-centre is full of buildings, murals and statues erected during the 70's boom-time and the film makes great use of these landmarks that surround the car and foot chases through the streets and city markets. The wardrobe is spot-on, the stylists have got it right. Nothing is overdone and no-one looks out of place. South Africans will be delighted by the memories and cultural references. While the lead actors are British and American, they are surrounded by a very capable South African supporting cast.
The film makers probably take a bit of license with Stander's motivations as far as his disgust with the ruling policies, but they're never over the top and additionally make room for placing more political content into a story that would arguably be uncomfortably white for a youngish democracy such as ours. Following this, the protest scenes are believable and tense. The violence is hard-hitting and impactful. The humour and stereotypes will make you smile.
Style and acting aside, there are some awkward moments. Parts of the film struggle with context. We have scenes of hard country driving for no discernable reason other than a chat with the characters. We see little of the planning involved for the robberies and a couple of acts of redemption by Stander are hard to swallow. Sometimes it's as if the film makers wanted to fit too much into the two hours and instead let the pace slacken.
While a little long and at times slow moving, Stander was a real pleasure to watch. I laughed out loud many times, and felt really emotional looking back on a society that was in a bad place. The police clashes with protesters brought tears to my eyes and the attitude and motivations of the typical white male is genuine and appropriate. I think this film deserves a tighter overall edit and a possibly re-shoot of a rushed, unconvincing end scene, however I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, if only for a spot-on glimpse of SA life twenty years ago.
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