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"In My Country"

Directed by John Boorman ("Deliverance").
Written by Ann Peacock.  Based on a book by Antjie Krog.
Starring Samuel L. Jackson and Juliette Binoche.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  3/29/05


Yeah, listen, about that whole apartheid thing...

The new Samuel L. Jackson film "In My Country" actually debuted last year but is making a run of the U.S. film circuit this year.  It deals with a South Africa in the mid-90s that is going through war trials following the release of Nelson Mandela and the growing realization that a lot of white guys are going to be in trouble for killing a ton of black guys in government-sponsored genocide activities over the years.  When a reporter from The Washington Post, Langston Whitfield (Jackson), shows up looking to write about the atrocities for the paper, he links up with a radio journalist named Anna (Juliette Binoche) and he gets more than he bargained for, ranging from interviews with a violent former South African colonel (Brendan Gleeson) to a ill-advised romance with Anna to the realization that not all Afrikaans are as bad as we think they are.  And, some dead bodies show up for good measure.

Based on a book by Antjie Krog, "In My Country" seems to stray too often from the initial focus of the film, on the war crimes that need to be addressed as South Africa attempts to begin the long process of healing as many wounds as it can.  This diversion can be blamed mostly on the second half of the film, when some wiseass decided that we were more interested in following the developing relationship between Anna and Langston than the freakin' apartheid that was sold to me initially.  The chemistry between Jackson and Binoche is mostly non-existent, but this is made up by their handling of the obscene violence that has taken place around them; one has a difficult time trying to imagine what life must have been like in, say, the mid-80s, when killing blacks for the sake of it still seemed to be fairly rampant, but the film does have a number of eye-opening exchanges between those Africans abused by the system and those in the white community that held absolute power in their time.

It's also a beautiful-looking film; so many glorious shots play out in "In My Country" and the cinematography of the scenery shots is captivating, it really is.  Director John Boorman, who gave us "Hope and Glory" and "Deliverance", gives us the frame for a great movie, it's just too bad that he chose to follow a storyline that goes so far from what the audience is made to care about that "In My Country" loses nearly-complete focus of its goals.  I saw this for free and I still was a little peeved at how this turned out.  Maybe next time, John...

Rating:  Matinee


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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 "Office Space"). 

"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, 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 half stars." 

"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 Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09