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Tsotsi

Best Foreign Film Oscar winner brings great soundtrack, little else
By PETER KEOUGH  |  March 8, 2006
2.0 2.0 Stars
TSOTSI: Existential odyssey gives way to rote manhuntAdapted from Athol Fugard’s lone, nearly forgotten novel, Gavin Hood’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film updates the playwright’s earnest allegory of redemption from the black-and-white moral climate of its original 1960 setting to the ambiguity of the post-apartheid present. Lacking Fugard’s creative imagination, however, he transforms the flawed but impassioned original into a slipshod generic trifle. Tsotsi (scowling, baby-faced Presley Chweneyagae), whose name means “thug,” leads a Johannesburg gang that preys on the weak without remorse or reflection. Then he comes into possession of a baby — abandoned by a prostitute in the novel, but here unwittingly kidnapped when Tsotsi carjacks a wealthy black couple. The interior existential odyssey of Fugard’s hero gives way to a rote-like police manhunt with vague social implications, trite sentimentality, and a pat resolution. The contemporary setting, however, does allow Hood to include rousing South African kwaito music for one of the year’s best soundtracks.
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