Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
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
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
Bronwen duly responds to the challenge by staging some genuinely
exciting set pieces, several of which will virtually have audiences
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.