By Monica Obaga, Buni.tv
Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema opens with a man, back covered in blood, lying unconscious in a small room. He wakes up to the sound of helicopters. Fully armed, uniformed police cover the streets and rooftops, searching for him.
All Lucky wants is a life of comfort, a big house with a great view, a nice car, and a
smart and beautiful wife. What he has is a big, very poor family and a college acceptance without a scholarship. After taking all manner of odd jobs, the high school senior is still left with too little to support his family and education. When a childhood hero rolls back into town, he and his best friend Zake give in to a life of crime. Their first carjacking job takes a humorous turn when they realize that neither one of them can drive, and the victim has to teach them!
“What’s important in life is to set goals. After every revolution comes a new order, but before that, opportunity.”
Jafta Mamabolo and Rapulana Seiphemo are electric as Lucky Kunene. Their
performances are seamless, from high school student to don, and create a very
compelling character. I was rooting for him throughout, which makes him an essential African anti-hero. The film maintains a lively pace, swinging swiftly between comedy and drama in the first act, and progressively getting darker and more complex but consistently thrilling.
The visual narrative of his ascent into power is poetic. We see him set apart, looking at the busy streets from above, over a balcony or window, or cutting through the masses surrounded by his entourage. An old associate returns, spelling trouble for the gang. There are limits to the film’s depth. All the drug lords are Nigerian immigrants, and the four women with lines in the film, despite their significance, are completely forgotten when off screen and never cross paths.
The good news, however, is that it is a pretty great gangster origin story and true African action thriller, with an ending that that is sure to leave you wanting more!
Watch Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema on Buni+