"Catch a Fire"
Directed by Phillip Noyce.
Written by Shawn Slovo.
Starring Derek Luke, Tim Robbins, and Bonnie Henna.
Release Year: 2006
Review Date: 10/12/06
Who doesn't love a little political thriller
intrigue set in Africa? The new apartheid-era drama "Catch a
Fire" has maybe the worst title of the year but some interesting
material to cover in 197X South Africa.
Director Phillip Noyce ("The
Quiet American", "Clear and Present Danger" and "Dead Calm" are
probably his best efforts) helms the true account of factory
foreman-turned-guerrilla Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke, from
April"), who spends the better part of what feels like a couple
of years being harassed by South African anti-terror cop Nic Vos
(Tim Robbins). Vos, investigating a mysterious explosion
overnight at the same plant where Chamusso happens to work, becomes
convinced that Chamusso is guilty...so, after dragging him into
custody and torturing him for weeks, he discovers the truth from
Chamusso (which we see early on)--that he was playing hookie that
night from work and skipping out on his wife (Bonnie Henna) and his
family by hangin' with another woman. After Vos lets Chamusso
out of imprisonment, he spends the next few months with the local
activist/terror group in the region, the African National
Congress...and makes an effort to get back at those that wrongly
imprisoned him, Vos among them.
At times, "Catch a Fire" (STILL can't
believe how bad that title is) is great stuff, especially as we
follow Patrick through his life as a good man trying to stay out of
trouble with the law. We get a little culture, we get to watch
Patrick as a family man, we get to watch him try to keep the
business of his co-workers clean to keep them out of the hands of
the cops. Even when we first get to see Patrick post-cop-abuse
start his training to become a violent terrorist, Noyce does good
work to keep us hooked by making us see a man's situation when the
majority is strangely out of power and are slaves to the vast
minority, in this case the purported 8-to-1 black-to-white ratio at
the time the action of the movie is taking place.
But the movie's switcheroo once Patrick
decides to desert his family to become a militant mostly takes a
turn for the worst; the strong family elements that make "Catch a
Fire" such a great study in what a man would do to right wrongs
imposed against him disappear, and all of Patrick's personal
relationships essentially end. The action in the second half
isn't as well filmed as in past Noyce efforts; the Robbins
character--already approaching stereotypical menacing bad guy by the
time his character finds the heart to let Patrick go free after
those made-up charges from the intro--becomes even less interesting,
thanks to poor development in the script of his character and the
nearly-complete deletion of his family in the second half. Now
that I think about it, nearly all of the backstory writing for
characters in this film was bad...it leaves a big void when you've
got no other characters to speak of besides our hero.
But, I still think that "Catch a Fire" is
worth seeing, especially for the subdued-yet-forceful Luke
performance and the first-half storytelling. I'm sure that I
am partially biased because I saw the film for free tonight...but,
give it a shot if you're hangin' out at a theater on a weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard