As the Johannesburg police struggled to maintain order during
the South African apartheid demonstrations, Captain Andre Stander (Jane)
became disillusioned with the law and the excessive force used to quell
the uprisings. Refusing to join his colleagues policing the townships, Stander
realised that the white citizens of the city were left to their own devices
and the opportunity for crime was all around them. So he took it upon himself
to expose this by robbing a bank but when he got away with it he did it
again and again until he actually gained some attention.
Usually biopics are about people you know or have heard of
but once in a while a movie comes along about someone you have completely
no knowledge about and it is completely fascinating.
The story of Andre Stander's crime spree is probably well
know in South Africa but the rest of the world knows little about the famed
bank robber's exploits. Here we have a man who became disillusioned with
the way the police force and government were handling the growing opposition
to apartheid in the 1970s and early 80s and decided to rebel. His rebellion
came in the shape of robbing banks, by himself and later as the 'Stander
Gang' with Allan Heyl and Lee McCall. He became the man of a thousand faces,
wearing disguises for each of his heists and even taking on the persona
of different nationalities by wearing makeup, wigs and facial appliances.
This exploits gripped the nation, as he became an embarrassment to the police
force because he was a former Captain in the Johannesburg police.
Bringing this modern day 'Robin Hood' to life is an excellent
performance from the much-underrated Thomas Jane. Better known for his action
roles in 'The Punisher' and 'Deep Blue Sea', people forget that he also
appeared in 'Boogie Nights' so he can actually act. As Andre Stander he
proves this for a fact as we follow the character's journey from disillusioned
cop, to playboy thief and finally to gilt ridden criminal. Jane plays, in
essence, three different roles within the same character as he transforms
from law enforcing police captain to a charismatic bank robber to a man
that cannot escape his demons as the net starts to close in. This is a major
plus for the career of Thomas Jane and should get him many plaudits and
recognition for this performance.
The supporting cast is also very good. David O'Hara and Dexter
Fletcher as extremely good as Allan Heyl and Lee McCall, the other two members
of the 'Stander Gang'. Both of these come into their own, during the lighter
second third of the movie, bringing quite a few laughs to the numerous bank
robberies the gang pull off. At Botha and Deborah Kara Unger are also good
as Stander's father and wife, who can't come to terms with what he is doing.
Aside from Thomas Jane and the supporting cast, much of the
acclaim for the piece has to go to director Bronwen Hughes. With only 'Harriet
the Spy' and 'Forces of Nature' to her name, you would have never had expected
a movie like this from director with this little experience. To be fair,
you probably wouldn't have expected a movie like this from a female director
either and this is all to her credit. She handles the subject matter superbly,
concentrating on Stander and not getting caught up in the political ramifications
of the anti-apartheid movement that could have so easily have drown the
subject matter. She knows the story she wanted to tell and sticks with it,
warts and all as we see Stander turn from rebellious police officer out
to prove a point to someone consumed by the money and glamour of his ill-gotten
gains. On this evidence, Bronwen Hughes is a talent to look out for.
'Stander' is a fascinating gem that shows how good independent
movie making can really be. The ability to take a non-recognised real life
character and portray his exploits is hard for any filmmaker as you have
to grab the audience from the off but this movie succeeds. With exceptional
performances and a director with a vision, 'Stander' is a very good movie
and a standard setter for the genre.
PICTURE & SOUND
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
sound, the movie is presented extremely well, especially when you bear
in mind that this is a low budget film.
The woman at the helm, Bronwen Hughes provides a chatty and interesting
commentary track for 'Stander'. The director talks about the South African
shoot, commenting on the history of the country and the times in which
the film is set. She also talks about casting, concentrating on the performance
of Thomas Jane but also commenting on the other standout performances
from the cast. The look of the movie and creating an authentic feel of
Johannesburg under apartheid is also discussed. This is a good commentary
from a director who feels very passionate about her film.
Deleted Beach Scene (3.21 mins)
This is a scene in which Stander finds out were the roadblocks are so
he can spend a day at the beach with Lee. The scene is very good but without
a commentary track or introduction we don't know why it was removed from
the final cut.
Anatomy of a Scene (24.41 mins)
A Sundance Channel special featuring director Bronwen Hughes, producer
Julia Verdin, line producer Paul Raleigh, editor Robert Ivsion, cinematographer
Jess Hall, visual consultant Lester Cohen and star Thomas Jane as they
take you behind the scenes of the filming of the 'Riot Scene'. The programme
takes you through pre-production, production design, cinematography and
editing as we are taken on to location in Tembisa, South Africa. This
is a very interesting programme that takes you inside the evolution of
the scene, offering frank and forthright interviews with the cast and
A preview of 'Downfall' and the theatrical trailer for 'Stander'
With a good commentary track and the excellent 'Anatomy of a Scene' programme,
this is a good DVD package for a low budget movie. Fans of the movie should
be very pleased and everyone else who missed this gem at the cinema should
rent it straight away.
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