Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Taute favours real stunts over CGI and puts his team through their paces with some serious challenges, adding a certain frisson to the film which just doesn’t exist when only pixels are at stake." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

Meet Theo (Jarrid Geduld). He’s a former firefighter traumatised by a rescue gone wrong which we see, in part, in the prologue to this film. He wants to go back to work but his captain tells him he isn’t ready, and it’s easy to see why. His wife Angela (Nicole Fortuin) is worried about his behaviour, too. He’s resisting therapy, saying he doesn’t need it, though the truth may be that he simply finds it too distressing. In that regard, his life is about to get a whole lot worse.

Angela is a journalist. One day she gets a call telling her that Theo’s life is in danger, follows up, and is provided with a dossier providing convincing evidence of a large political and corporate conspiracy whose targets all seem to end up dead or in prison. Before she can find out why her husband is on the list, however, Angela is killed. Waking up in bed next to her still-warm body, Theo has mere minutes to process his grief before the police arrive, but with a firefighter’s strength and the panic response brought about by PTSD, he soon escapes and goes on the run, desperate to clear his name.

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It’s a familiar enough structure for a thriller which goes to a lot of familiar places and relies on not one but two women dying to drive the plot. In a world where the combination of volatile action scenes with plot is getting rarer, however, it’s likely to scratch an itch for quite a few viewers. Director Travis Taute proved his mettle as an action director in 2018’s impressive Number 37 and he brings the same skill to the fore here. Whilst this film isn’t as strong overall, and is quite derivative in terms of both its story and its action set pieces, it’s capably assembled and will easily get you on the edge of your seat. It's striking enough to have found a welcoming home at Fantasia 2021.

Taute favours real stunts over CGI and puts his team through their paces with some serious challenges, adding a certain frisson to the film which just doesn’t exist when only pixels are at stake. Geduld does a lot of his own stunt work and his confident physical performance contributes to his character – especially with that background. He sometimes produces moves which don’t make much sense coming from an untrained fighter, however, and no justification is offered for Theo having those skills. They risk making him seem too confident, so that we don’t really worry about him until, inevitably, he is psychologically manipulated into a dangerous situation. He doesn’t come across as the smartest player at the table and ultimately it’s up to a curious police officer (Gail Mabalane) to put a lot of the pieces together.

At just over two hours, the film sags a little. There are too many scenes which don’t communicate much and seem to be there only because Taute couldn’t work out a better way of pacing out the action. The score is also problematic, overblown in places to the point where it becomes distracting or even comedic. A more spare approach on both counts would have made it easier to focus on what really gives the film its appeal – its all out commitment to kinetic thrills and its first rate fight choreography. Despite falling short of its potential, it confirms Taute’s talent an an action director and will leave you eager to see what he can achieve when somebody else is writing the script.

Reviewed on: 14 Aug 2021
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A fireman with an anguished past finds himself on the run for a crime he has no memory of.

Director: Travis Taute

Writer: Travis Taute

Starring: Jarrid Geduld, Gail Mabalane, Andre Jacobs, Nicole Fortuin

Year: 2021

Runtime: 124 minutes

Country: South Africa


Fantasia 2021

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