Ryan Owen 05/05/2006
In the vein of City Of God, Tsotsi romanticizes young gangsters in this archetypal 'bad man does bad, bad man sees error of his ways, bad man does good'.
Tsotsi is based on the novel by distinguished South African writer Athol Fugard. The main character Tsotsi (Chweneyagae) is an emotionally vacant street gangster who from childhood has made a living from being violent and taking advantage of the vulnerable in Soweto's shantytowns. A job goes wrong and after stealing a get-away car he realises he has inadvertently taken a young infant into his possession. Tsotsi tries to care for the child by carrying him around in a shopping bag and coercing his neighbour a young mother to nurse him. The child begins to thaw his damaged soul, bringing confusion, trouble, and the possibility of some form of redemption.
At times the editing is jarring, the continuity in movement is absent and the story is unengaging and drags. It is technically flawed, but then South Africa's filmmaking community is hardly brimming with talent. It also draws heavily on 2004 Oscar-nominee City of God, but differently the characters are not sympathetic until it is too late.
The power of Tsotsi lies in its build-up to a highly inevitable pivotal scene but the pacing that was previously dragging along is now faultless as it perfectly captures the pure intensity and emotion of the actors. The director's choice to not go with the, now clich'ed, ending where our protagonist is killed after redeeming himself is very powerful and by doing so It makes the film's messages of redemption, forgiveness, and personal responsibility all the more powerful. Gripping stuff but you have to keep with it.