GANGSTER’S PARADISE: JERUSALEMA Movie Review
GANGSTER’S PARADISE: JERUSALEMA is a new movie coming all the way from South Africa which tells the tale of Lucky Kunene (Rapaulana Seiphemo), a young man who rose from petty crimes in the slums to running a crime syndicate in Johannesburg. He specializes in building hijacking, which consists of taking over decrepit buildings from slum lords and holding the rent hostage until they fix the building. His ingenious scheme soon puts him at odds with the police and local drug dealers placing him and his empire in danger.
The story of Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema was smart and engaging which made it easy to follow. It starts with an origin story showing Lucky as a young man trying his hand at hijacking (which lead to a pretty funny scene with his first car hijacking) and slowly progresses to him becoming the crime boss who has a Robin Hood streak in him. While the story drags in some instances, the movie does a good job of showing the right set of events that make you root for Lucky in his endeavors, even if you disagree with some of his methods. My only gripe would be the few plot lines that just seem like cliches of any gangster movie such as the close associate who ends up betraying him or the vicious police officers who will do anything to take him down; frankly I am over these kinds of storylines.
The acting in Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema was strong enough that I believed everything I saw. What made it even more compelling was the fact that the director casted a mix of professional actors and young, undiscovered actors which added authenticity to the performances. Rapulana Seiphemo who plays the lead role of Lucky Kunene has the perfect blend of cold bloodedness and passion that made his character compelling to watch. But my favorite performance came from Jafta Mambolo who plays the younger Luck; he was nothing short of brilliant as a young man trying to find a way to provide for his family by any means necessary. Quite frankly, some of these South African actors could teach a thing or two to some of the mediocre actors that we still see in major American blockbuster movies.
What struck me more than the story or the acting was the portrayal of South Africa and in particular Johanessburg. It was a crazy and intense blend of beauty, fear and realism that made the whole movie stand out from the crowd of any other gangster movie I have ever watched. Part of me was saying “Damn that place is awesome. I must go there” and part of me was saying “Hell no, I don’t want to get carjacked”. Regardless, if you are anything like me, you will be mesmerized/frightened by the locale.
Ultimately, Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema is a must watch movie for all movie lovers. Frankly, I was expecting to watch a typical gangster movie but ended up watching what I can only call the African answer to Scarface. If you are looking to see a captivating story, solid acting and exotic locales, then you must go and see this movie.
Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema opens in New York, Los Angeles and Houston on June 11, 2010. Watch the trailer below.