Gangster’s Paradise Jerusalema : ***

Posted: February 5, 2015 in 2008, Action, Crime/Detective, Drama, Gangster Movie, South Africa, XXX

During a hop on hop off tour in Johannesburg, the audio commentary recommends watching Jerusalema as it drives by the Hillbrow district, where empty high-rise buildings were invaded by blacks from the townships after the fall of Apartheid.

It’s a great recommendation. This is a really good movie. It starts with the arrest of Lucky Kunene, a hoodlum who basically is in charge of all the buildings. He gets interviewed by a reporter and the rest of the story is one huge flashback. It takes the viewers back to his youth where he gets into the lucrative business of carjacking once he learns that he is not entitled to receive a tuition for a university career. After a ten-year break of criminality (kind of) he discovers a more clever way of making lots of money. He sets up a building trust and collects all the rent from families living in the aforementioned buildings. With that money he buys property where he can charge rent again. He basically becomes a regular landlord (kind of). However, a Nigerian gang leader isn’t all too happy with Lucky’s empire which pushes him, his drug traffic and his prostitution network away from Johannesburg’ center.

The best thing of the movie is not so much the story, but the main character’s development. He’s a very likable gangster, with a sense of morality. He’s intelligent and ambitious and therefore respected. All he wants is a dream house near the ocean in Durban and crime is just another way of getting it. The two performers who portray him (as a youth and as an adult) are excellent. This really is great acting. But also the sidekicks are doing a great job as well. Only the female characters and actresses disappoint.

Another cool thing is that this movie is made in South Africa and by South Africans. It’s not an American movie set in the fascinating country. It’s home-made stuff. Think about The Wire (atmosphere) meets Cidade de Deus (exoticism) and you get the picture. It’s way better than the award-winning Tsotsi.


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