iNumber Number (aka Avenged) Review

Posted: September 4, 2014 in 2014 Fantasy FilmFest, Action, Reviews, Thriller
Tags: , , , , , ,

iNumber NumberThe best thing to be said about iNumber Number is that it leaves you wanting more. You want to see more work from director/screenwriter Donovan Marsh. You want to see more of a stellar cast, particularly lead actor S’Dumo Mtshali. You especially want to see more of South Africa as a setting for hard-nosed crime flicks. The downside to this desire for more, more, and more is that iNumber Number is not quite satisfying in itself. A good bit of the 96-minute runtime is given over to waiting for the film to hit fifth gear, only to discover that it’s more of an automatic transmission ride.

Much has been made of the film’s similarities to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, but, in fact, iNumber Number is more closely related to the modern Hong Kong cop movie. A rouge detective and his long-suffering baby-faced partner bust bad guys in Johannesburg’s slums their own way, eschewing the teamwork preached by their shady captain. When the Captain refuses to file the paperwork for a reward the duo earned by breaking up a gang in a beautifully choreographed sequence at the beginning of the film, the take-no-prisoners/take-no-crap cop, Chili (Mtshali), decides to infiltrate another gang planning an armored vehicle heist using his skills as an undercover agent, while actually planning to criminally commit to the deed and pocket his share of the take. His chubby friend, Shoes (Presley Chweneyagae), wants no part of it, but is still a good enough friend and bad enough cop to wind up as a hostage on the eve of the robbery.

Unlike in Reservoir Dogs, this band of thugs knows that there’s a rat in their midst before the job goes down. Director/writer Marsh constructs a teasing, tense scene in which they try to identify the mole by cell phone. Chili does just enough to convince the gang leader, Mambane, (Owen Sejake), to go forward even as the group’s Vic Vega, Skroef (Israel Makoe), strongly advises against it. The robbery goes down, and the true motivation of each gang member surfaces, resulting in a protracted third act that needs a little more imagination and a little less running around a deserted warehouse.

iNumber Number has great energy, and Marsh does set a nice pace, although five minutes could be lopped off without losing anything of significance. The action scenes suffer from overly frenetic editing, leaving the viewer with the impression of a great sequence rather than the full enjoyment of seeing the fight play out. The ultra-fast cuts are counter productive here, leaving the viewer alienated rather than energized.

A more positive technological aspect to iNumber Number is the creative placement and font of the subtitles. The characters speak a mixture of English, Zulu, Afrikaans, and Southern Sotho. The dialog is placed up on the screen, often next to the character speaking, rather than centered at the bottom of the screen as is traditional for subtitles. It’s a novel development that should be more widely adopted. It perfectly suits a film like iNumber Number that has a bit of a graphic novel sensibility to it, but could have used a bit more.

Two and a half stars.


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