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STANDER (director/writer: Bronwen Hughes; screenwriter: Bima Stagg; cinematographer: Jess Hall; editor: Robert Ivison; music: The Free Association; cast: Thomas Jane (Andre Stander), David O’Hara (Allan Heyl), Dexter Fletcher (Lee McCall), Deborah Kara Unger (Bekkie Stander), Ashley Taylor (Cor van Deventer), Marius Weyers (Gen. Stander), At Botha (General Viljoen); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Chris Roland/Julia Verdin; Newmarket Films; 2003-Canada/Germany/S.Africa)
Cleverly told true story from female Canadian filmmaker Bronwen Hughes.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Cleverly told true story from female Canadian filmmaker Bronwen Hughes (“Forces of Nature”/”Harriet the Spy”) and the writer Bima Stagg, but one that is flawed by being murky and caring more about its many shoot-outs more than focusing on character. The thriller is based on a true story during the South African apartheid period of the late ’70s and ’80s. It tells of the loyal Johannesburg police captain, Andre Stander (Thomas Jane), the youngest on the force, marrying the gorgeous Bekkie (Deborah Kara Unger) and seemingly on top of the world. After killing an unarmed black protester in a 1976 political protest rally at the Soweto township, the shaky captain, suddenly rejects the brutal system he’s a part of and after quitting the riot squad in a career killer move commits a string of daring bank robberies in various disguises to become an unlikely anti-establishment hero.

Jane is fine as a brooding Robin Hood figure who is never sure of what he wants to be, as we observe his life of white privilege in contrast with the country’s majority of blacks living under apartheid and poverty. Jane serves a prison sentence and in prison re-forms his Stander Gang to escape and go on another crime spree. He then flees to the States

This is a gripping thriller that could have been much better with some tweaking. The psychological forces that pushed the anguished subject over the edge are never seen clearly onscreen. Things are not helped by the uneven pacing, and the way things are handled in a sudden anticlimactic ending.

Ashley Taylor gives a fine performance as the second in command in the police precinct. His general father is a respected figure in police circles and is admirably played by Marius Weyers.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”