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Stander (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary from director Bronwen Hughes. Anatomy of a Scene. Deleted beach scene. Trailer.

IF YOU thought Ocean's 12 had cornered the market on how to make a heist movie cool, then wait 'til you get a load of Stander, a South Africa-based crime thriller that is based on a true story.

Starring Thomas Jane (of The Punisher fame), the film is the story of Andre Stander, the youngest captain in the Johannesburg Police Force during the Seventies, who went on to become South Africa's most notorious bank robber.

Equal parts heist movie, love story, and historically accurate indictment of a corrupt political institution, the film tackles some difficult issues in impressive fashion, providing career-best performances for all involved, not to mention some eye-catching direction from Bronwen Hughes.

The film picks up as Andre Stander (Jane) enjoys the comforts of middle-class married life in late-1970s South Africa.

Things change dramatically, however, following an Apartheid demonstration in which he takes part in the indiscriminate killing of civilians.

As a result, Stander becomes wracked with guilt and resolves to defy the system, plotting a series of audacious, high-flying bank robberies, only to return to the scene of the crime as the lead investigating officer.

Eventually apprehended by his colleagues and jailed, Stander subsequently befriends outlaws Allan Heyl (David O'Hara) and Lee McCall (Dexter Fletcher) and executes a daring prison break.

Together with his new-found partners in crime, he forms the 'Stander Gang' and commits dozens more bank robberies across the country, thereby attracting the silent admiration of a nation and sticking a finger up to the authorities along the way.

As a result, The Stander Gang become near-legendary folk heroes, dubbed the South African equivalents of Bonnie and Clyde, but their celebrity eventually ends as violently as it begins.

Although it tackles some sensitive issues, such as institutionalised racism and apartheid, Bronwen's movie does an excellent job of balancing the politics with the excitement and never allows itself to become too judgmental or condescending.

Stander is undoubtedly portrayed as a hero but he is also increasingly reckless the more he becomes addicted to flouting authority.

As such, his relationship with both his wife (Deborah Kara Unger) and father (Marius Weyers) becomes strained to breaking point, so much so that he is forced to distance himself from them.

But then the guilt he feels for the lives he took as a police officer compels him to make an ever-more exaggerated stand against the system.

As a result, robbing banks was the best way to do this and as the stakes becomes raised, so too does the audacity with which Stander pulls them off (even robbing the same back twice in the same day).

Bronwen duly responds to the challenge by staging some genuinely exciting set pieces, several of which will virtually have audiences cheering along.

Yet as stylish as Stander becomes (it even contains a soundtrack from David Holmes' side project, The Free Association), it also contains plenty of substance which is further conveyed in the gritty, Seventies-based look of proceedings.

The film is shot in a raw, distinctive fashion that further enhances Bronwen's credentials as a director to watch.

So while the likes of Danny Ocean and company like to dazzle you with their smooth-talking criminal exploits, Stander provides an equally impressive alternative - a fast-moving, hard-talking shot in the arm that smacks of authenticity rather than glamour.

Make sure you deposit yourself in cinemas to catch it.

 

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