South Africa as a “Hood”
Release Date: February 12, 1997
Audience: Older teenagers & adults
Runtime: 95 minutes
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Director: Darrell James Roodt
Executive Producer: Ice Cube & Pat Charbonnet
Producer: Gillian Gorfil & Darrell Roodt
Writer: Greg Latter & Darrell Roodt
Address Comments To:Robert Shaye, CEO
New Line Cinema
116 North Robertson Boulevard, Suite 200
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Rapper Ice Cube plays Vusi , a South African exile who has been living in America for the past 12 years. He returns home to visit the grave of his father but is met with the news that his brother Stephen (Eric Miyeni ) owes serious money to a drug lord. Vusi goes into Johannesburg to look for him and eventually finds Stephen’s girlfriend, Karen (Elizabeth Hurley ). Karen is a stripper with an affinity for smoking crack. Karen has also been missing Stephen and fears he has been captured or killed by drug leader, Muki (Ving Rhames ).
Vusi follows Karen from the strip clubs to the dirty apartments which house the small-time drug dealers, but Stephen is nowhere to be seen. Vusi and Karen eventually find Stephen in a Casino, where he is trying to win money to pay Muki . Vusi meets Stephen, but the reunion isn’t amicable. Vusi realizes that he has to come up with $15,000 or his whole family will be killed. Through some phone calls to America, Vusi is able to gather $14,100, and together, they go to meet Muki . Muki accepts the money, but kills Stephen anyway. Outraged, Vusi joins with his other brother to exact revenge.
Ice Cube is not known for his acting talents, and he doesn’t show any thespian abilities here. Not only doesn’t he have a South African accent, but he can’t seem to shake his LA rapper image. His presence only reinforces the fact that this is a “hood” movie set in a different location. Elizabeth Hurley looks good, but this material isn’t right for her. Perhaps she is trying to prove herself as an acting talent by going for the role of a stripper which automatically limits her appeal. Of all players, Ving Rhames performs best, but he is duplicating his role in PULP FICTION. This movie even duplicates the famous “back-of-the-head” shot in PULP FICTION, this time sans band-aide.
This movie could have explored the family nuances and culture-clashes between Vusi and his brothers, but it instead gives us a very mediocre manhunt followed by a shoot out. The complicated issues of Apartheid are never examined, thus shedding no light on the deeper issues of Vusi’s conflict. The South African locations, while never photographed for their beauty, may only serve to confuse the American viewer who doesn’t know the struggles therein. For very brief moments, we see skin heads, but they only serve as window dressing and leave more questions than answers as to the reason for their presence. While it is exciting to know that South Africa is now opening up for business and for world relations, it is sad to see film product that doesn’t help Americans understand the country and its past, but rather injects the worst of America into a troubled situation. South Africa doesn’t need to emulate our sex-and-violence film culture.
Ice Cube and Elizabeth Hurley are miscast for the roles. This movie could have explored the family nuances and culture-clashes between Vusi and his brothers, but it instead it gives us a very mediocre manhunt followed by a shoot out. While it is exciting to know that South Africa is now opening up, it is sad to see film product that doesn’t help Americans understand the country and its past, but rather injects the worst of America into a troubled situation. This movie is all violence, revenge and the seedy world of strip clubs.