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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Stander (review)

A familiar modern Robin Hood story gets a vicious kick of authenticity in this true tale of a white cop in 1970s apatheid South Africa who goes rogue. Andre Stander (The Punisher‘s Thomas Jane, in the performance that may finally earn him the recognition he deserves) was the youngest captain on the Johannesburg police force when he awoke suddenly to his role in the country’s corrupt political machine of oppression. So he started robbing banks, snubbing his nose outrageously at his former law-enforcement colleages, and became a national folk hero. Director Bronwen Hughes uses chaotic camerawork and the washed-out colors of old news footage to give the film a hint of the documentary; the police quelling of a riot in the townships that opens the film is brutally realistic enough to help us appreciate how it jolted Stander awake. (If there’s a certain appeal in stories of charming outlaws sticking to The Man, it’s even more potent here, where The Man is such a malignant thug.) And yet Stander remains a complicated, contradictory man, one clearly enjoying his notoriety but never quite coming to terms with it, either; Jane’s considerable charisma and still-waters mettle render him a portrait in sharp, prickly tones.

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watch at home

MPAA: rated R for violence, language, some sexuality and nudity

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb

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