Or has crime chosen him? As the film progresses, you see the very limited options available to the people of Mdantsane. The movie poster itself proclaims: “There are three ways out. A ring. A cop car. A pine box”
Indeed, as the lines between boxing and crime blur, many of the characters encounter one, if not all these options. Thus, none of the villains are entirely evil and none of the heroes are entirely innocent. Dudu, the responsible and level-headed older brother has his own demons, not least of all having to ask his cocky and criminal younger brother for money. And Duke has a soft spot for his family and will do anything to protect them, even horrific things.
More blurred lines! What could have easily sunk into a predictable moral tale about unemployment, crime and exploitation is elevated by the boxing action and the stellar performances of the two actors. Mantsai’s portrayal of Dudu is skilfully measured. You can feel the waves of anger, disappointment and desperation ebbing and flowing under the “strong, silent type” demeanour. Komani excels as the arrogant, smooth-talking bad boy and he nails his comedic parts that add a much-needed lightness to an otherwise dark story. There’s even a galvanising cameo from Siv Ngesi, who plays an overbearing young boxer who adds another gigantic male ego to the mix.
The whole cast features more than a few acting legends such as Owen Sejake, Patrick Ndlovu and late great Nomhle Nkonyeni. And the swearing! Sailors would have blushed ages ago! It stands out because it’s such a rarity to hear so much swearing in IsiXhosa in a film. But for a film set in a troubled township, the language fits like a glove. A boxing glove, to be exact.