Stander review

Deep Blue Sea. The Sweetest Thing. Dreamcatcher. The Punisher. That's four reasons. Plus, he's got a girl's name. So make that five. Five good reasons why Thomas Jane hasn't exactly been taxiing a runway to superstardom. Well, that could be about to change. Because as real-life rozzer-turned-robber Andre Stander, the late-blooming 36-year-old positively burns with star power. Wry, charismatic, bruised and bruising... Look, we've checked the pressnotes and it's definitely him. The man's just incredibly watchable... And the same goes for Bronwen Hughes' fizzy thriller.

Who'd have guessed that the director of kiddie-com Harriet The Spy had this in her locker? But, right from the opening aerial-shot - - strafing across swanky suburbia to the corrugated shanty towns - - Hughes' film captures the '70s fug of apartheid South Africa with striking conviction, conjuring a textured backdrop for Stander's internal crisis to come.

Starting straight-faced with a sun-dappled wedding (that trusty movie portend of bad things to come), Stander's flashpoint arrives early in a tense pitched battle between riot police and rock-flinging protestors, lensed with all the raw, shaky immediacy of Bloody Sunday. Then Hughes jacks up the ante: the instant Captain Stander pulls his first impromptu bank job, socio-political commentary gets buckled back behind a crackerjack succession of gripping robberies, prison breaks and car chases.

A conflicted, roguish anti-hero with derring-do to burn, the moustached, multi-wigged Jane does admittedly look a little like a Boogie Nights extra (which, in fact, he was), but Stander's caperish antics are shaded around a tough dramatic core. Deborah Kara Unger makes for a crucial, compelling emotional buffer as Stander's wife and there's more great texture from fellow heisters David Patrick O'Hara and Dexter Fletcher. Believe it: even Dexter Press Gang Fletcher convinces, steadily dismantling as his loose-cannon Seewth Ifriken crim tilts over the edge. Of course, with its breathless gear-crunches between earnest political drama, crims-on-the-lam thriller and mottled character study, there's always the danger the same could happen to Hughes' film. Bima Stagg's grim, smirking script moves too hurriedly to dig deeply into any one of its strands, settling instead for a fistful of the psychological topsoil. Exactly why does Stander slide from latter-day Robin Hood to thrill-junkie Jesse James? We're never sure. And thanks to Jane's riveting central turn, we never think to ask.

Not a probing movie, then, but a wholly entertaining one. In fact, exactly the kind of film you can already imagine Bruckheimer remaking with Clooney in the lead. Hell, after this, he should stick with that fella with the girl's name.

One of the year's surprise treats. A pacey, action-packed heist thriller powerfully anchored by a blockbusting Thomas Jane.

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