Preview by: Jack Foley
ANDRE Stander was the youngest Captain in the Johannesburg Police
Force during the Seventies as well as South Africa’s most
notorious bank robber.
Needless to say, such an incredible tale has been turned into
a film, starring Tom (The Punisher)
Jane and directed by Bronwen Hughes.
Stander begins with Jane enjoying the comforts of middle-class
married life in late-1970s South Africa.
Following an Apartheid demonstration in which he takes part in
the indiscriminate killing of civilians, however, Stander becomes
wracked with guilt and resolves to defy the system.
Rather than tackle it head-on, he devizes a series of audacious,
high-flying bank robberies, oftentimes returning to the scene
of the crime as the lead investigating officer.
He was eventually apprehended by his colleagues and jailed, but
subsequently befriends outlaws Allan Heyl and Lee McCall and executes
a daring prison break.
Together with Heyl and McCall, he forms the 'Stander Gang' and
commits dozens of bank robberies across the country, thereby attracting
the silent admiration of a nation and sticking a finger up to
the authorities along the way.
Their exploits turned them into near-legendary folk heroes,
or the South African equivalents of Bonnie & Clyde.
Bronwen's impressive movie is equal parts heist movie, love
story, and historically accurate indictment of a corrupt political
institution (released on the tenth anniversary of Apartheid’s
It opens in the UK on May 27 and includes a terrific soundtrack
by David Holmes, with his band The Free Association.
Incredibly, the film has already been released on DVD in America,
but attracted a number of positive reviews when it played in cinemas
Leading the acclaim was the New York Daily News,
which wrote that 'Maryland native, Thomas Jane, affects a very
convincing South African accent for the title role in this compelling,exploitative
true-life drama about a Johannesburg police captain turned bank
While the Toronto Star opined: "Pumped
by a soundtrack of period South African funk and dance music,
propelled by whiplash montage sequences and rubber-burning Burt
Reynolds-issue getaways, Stander is the very definition of good,
The New York Times described it as 'an unsettling
character study of a man self-destructively addicted to flouting
While Newsday felt that 'it's Jane, breaking
out of pretty-boy roles in vacuous movies, who provides Stander
its vortex of violent conflict and makes the film both kinetic
and socially resonant'.
And Entertainment Weekly wrote: "Directed
by Bronwen Hughes ... with striking verve, Stander efficiently
conveys the anarchic ironies of the situation."
Less enthused, however, was the Hollywood Reporter,
which felt that 'Stander attempts to pass itself off as a fast-paced
caper picture doubling as a socially conscious apartheid drama
but ends up equally unconvincing in both departments'.
While the New York Post dismissed it as 'a second-rate
action picture that's content to use apartheid as a colorful background'.
But the San Francisco Chronicle declared that
it 'has you in its grip from the beginning'.
And the Los Angeles Times concludes this overview
by stating that Stander is 'an exciting, hard-driving, fast-moving
gangster picture and a sharp commentary on apartheid'.