Zulu (also called City of Violence) is a French-South African co-production featuring Orlando Bloom and Forest Whitaker. Two cops, Brian Epkeen (Bloom) and Ali Sokhela (Whitaker) are investigating the murder of a young girl. The deeper they dig, the more awful the criminal network they discover turns out to be. A new synthetic drug is hitting the streets and causes people to completely loose it. While the agents are getting closer to the truth they are also dealing with their own pasts. Basically, all the ingredients for a good thriller.
Gruesome Joke of a Plot
Unfortunately, Zulu is not able to deliver at any point. First of all, the movie has no point of relief. It’s a dark movie that is horrible in so many ways. There’s tons of unnecessary nudity and extremely graphic violence. But even worse, there is not a single character with a ‘light’ background: all of the characters have awful histories. A lot of it is completely unnecessary for the story. For example, officer Dan Fletcher’s wife is recovering from cancer, but this aspect serves no purpose in the movie besides making it a lot darker. Another example is Sokhela visiting a prostitute in Khayelitsha and getting interested in a nightclub dancer. Both relationships fail at adding a lot of content to the movie.
Next, the story is incredibly unbelievable. Epkeen and Sokhela constantly go investigate by themselves without any back-up; not even from each other. In the end they chase the bad guys to Namibia; neglecting all international regulations. Why is the climax in Namibia in the first place anyway, apart from the beautiful desert scenery. It just doesn’t make sense. Watching the movie resulted in us having tons of moments that we frowned at the incredibly rubbish story line.
South African Caricature
Finally, having lived in South Africa for over a year now it is also really annoying to see how many flaws are in the production; probably often in an attempt to increase the production value. For example, while Sokhela comes from KwaZulu-Natal and being a Zulu himself, the movie often refers to blacks in the Western Cape as Zulus. Every South African however knows that the Western Cape is dominated by Xhosa people.
Next, the murder has taken place at Muizenberg beach but when Epkeen goes to investigate the house “close by” he visits a house in Table Bay. Granted, this has a nicer view of Table Mountain, but it’s not Muizenberg at all.
What is the most annoying however, is the overly cliché depiction of the South African identity. While the Apartheid history is awful, people are more and more leaving that behind them. Unfortunately, internationally that is still what South Africa is known for. It’s a pity that the background of all the main characters (including the bad guys) is so closely tied to the Apartheid history. It’s a caricature of South Africa. Another annoying example is Epkeen eating biltong in almost every single shot. Because that’s what all Saffas do; they eat biltong all the time. (Please note the irony in my tone.)
The only thing that is still quite okay, is the acting. Given what they had to work with, it’s a miracle that both Bloom and Whitaker are still able to deliver an okish result. Their acting is however nowhere near good enough to redeem the movie.
So do yourself a favour and use your time, money and energy for something else than this disaster of a movie.
Zulu – Jérôme Salle (Eskwad, 2014)