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Review: Waz (2007)

Directed by: Tom Shankland | 105 minutes | horror, thriller, crime | Actors: Stellan Skarsgård, Melissa George, Ashley Walters, Tom Hardy, Paul Kaye, John Sharian, Selma Blair, Barbara Adair, Peter Ballance, Sally Hawkins, Lauren Hood, ‘Sean’ Brian Jordaan, Sheila Kerr, Michael Liebman, Joshua O ‘ Gorman, Alibe Parsons, Robert Phillips, Marcus Valentine, Michael Wildman, Larry Cowan, Laurence Doherty, Roy McManus, Igor Smiljevic, Alvin Charles

“Waz” is a mix of a grim police thriller in the style of “Se7en”, in which a duo of police officers start the hunt for a serial killer, and the more recent torture horror films like “Saw” and “Hostel”. Fortunately, the emphasis is more on the police aspect than the torture scenes, because almost no one is waiting for yet another bloody festival of pain. Yet as the film progresses there are a few in which you will undoubtedly put your teeth together.

Melissa George (“30 Days of Night”) plays Helen Westcott, a young policewoman who has just been linked to veteran Eddie Argo (Stellan Skarsgård). The first crime scene is the harbor, where the body of a pregnant woman, girlfriend of a gangster boss, lies. The letters “W∆Z” are carved into her belly. With a business card like that, it must be a serial killer, says Argo, and when the victim’s boyfriend is found, with the same bloody inscription, the case is a fact. The film has even more in common with films such as “Se7en” and “Saw”: here too, the killer wants to teach the victims a lesson. Scientist George R. Price and his genetics equation are inventively integrated into the film. It’s all about a choice: Would you kill the sweetest person in your life if you could save your own life with it? An interesting question that will definitely make you think. The murderer wants to substantiate this theory and has very logical reasons for it.

“Waz” is reminiscent of police thrillers from the 1970s, early 1980s. The film is set in New York, but has also been shot in European cities such as Belfast. The cast is, except for Selma Blair, un-American. The gray, dingy atmosphere is sublime and convincingly presented. Especially the scenes in the house of heroin whore Elly Carpenter (Sally Hawkins) seem authentic. Her role in the whole generates deep emotional reactions. The actors do a great job. Melissa George may be a little too inexperienced to take on the heavy role, but the fact that she is reminiscent of Charlize Theron, and not just because of her appearance, is proof enough of her talent. Stellan Skarsgård also manages to impress in his role and regularly misleads the viewer. That is also the strength of the film: even though the viewer already knows whodunnit halfway through the film, the why is still unclear. The psychological aspects of the film are therefore very strong. “Waz” also has a plot twist, something that seems almost mandatory in these types of movies, but this one is so unexpected that its effect has quite an impact.

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English Reviews

Review: Game for Vultures (1979)

Game for Vultures (1979)

Directed by: James Fargo | 103 minutes | drama | Actors: Richard Harris, Richard Roundtree, Joan Collins, Ray Milland, Denholm Elliott, Sven-Bertil Taube, Ken Gampu, Tony Osoba, Neil Hallett, Mark Singleton, Alibe Parsons, Victor Melleney, Jana Cilliers, John Parsonson, Elaine Proctor, Chris Chittell, Graham Armitage, Patrick Mynhardt, Ndaba Mhlongo, Ian Steadman, Wilson Dunster

Disappointing political drama with a number of messy action scenes that tries to say something meaningful about the complex situation in southern Africa and the guerrilla war in Rhodesia, but does not succeed on all fronts. The weakest point is the screenplay, but director James Fargo also makes a mess of it with a number of uninteresting scenes and sloppy editing, which does not help the clarity. As a result, it remains unclear what the film actually wants to say. Rhodesia was a former British colony named after the English adventurer, businessman and politician Cecil Rhodes, who unilaterally declared independence in 1965. The country was not recognized by the international community. The government was formed by the white minority, after which parts of the black population revolted to achieve self-government. The so-called “Bush War” led to economic sanctions against the regime. The territory of Rhodesia covered the present-day states of Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia, with Zimbabwe accounting for the lion’s share.

‘Game for Vultures’ was shot in the twilight of the country, just before it went on to become Zimbabwe after elections under Robert Mugabe, taking it for granted that viewers have insider knowledge of the war and the political situation. However, this will not apply to everyone now, which may lead to confusion about what exactly is going on. Not that the intrigue and scheming were so well worked out on their own. On the contrary, the plot is poorly developed. This is partly due to the sloppy build-up of tension, partly due to the stiff acting, with bloodless dialogues about strategies.

The lead roles are for Richard Harris and Richard Roundtree. Harris shows up after fifteen minutes as the white Rhodesian David Swansey. This businessman has managed to circumvent international sanctions and has already earned millions with all kinds of illegal trades. Now he receives a highly unusual proposal from a highly connected corporate client, Colonel Brettle (Ray Milland). The delivery of 50 attack helicopters to make it easier to take out the insurgents. The helicopters are American – left over from the Vietnam War that ended a few years earlier – and would have to be delivered to Rhodesia via Paraguay and Spain via a complicated construction. Harris whistles his way through the scenes wearing an assortment of silly hats and shawls, barely appearing emotionally involved with what’s going on around him.

The contrast with the intense Richard Roundtree as freedom fighter Gideon Marunga could not be greater. Roundtree is an unyielding fighter with a strong sense of justice who, after being injured in a botched ambush, is tasked by the leaders of the rebellion to investigate the rumor about the helicopters. It will lead to big jumps between the jungles of Rhodesia and metropolitan London, as both Swansey and Marunga fly back and forth over this deal. Then there are the sleazy private detective Thistle (Denholm Elliott) and the unconvincing acting investigative journalist Prescott (Sven Bertil Taube). Joan Collins also appears in a supporting role. Although she was already known at the time for her long film and TV career (and a turbulent personal life), her most famous role – that of Alexis in ‘Dynasty’ – would be a few years in the future. She doesn’t get much to do, except play Harris’s girlfriend.

As mentioned, the scenario does not excel in intelligence, with a number of all too coincidental events, illogical twists and very simplistic solutions. The movie isn’t a total failure, mainly because of Roundtree’s play and in itself good intentions to make a point about the hypocrisy of morals vs interests, highlight the struggle in southern Africa and the impact the war is having on ordinary people. . Still, ‘Game for Vultures’ is not a high point in the career of the cast and crew. As a viewer, you have the feeling that there was a better film in it – and that the situation certainly deserved it.