Tsotsi (Thug)


Tsotsi (Thug)

Critics Consensus

Chweneyagae's powerful performance carries this simple yet searing tale of a shantytown teenager's redemption.



Total Count: 129


Audience Score

User Ratings: 39,187
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Movie Info

An amoral teenager develops an unexpected paternal side in this powerful drama from South Africa. Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae) is the street name used by a young Johannesburg delinquent who has taken to a life of crime in order to support himself. Tsotsi comes from a blighted upbringing -- his mother died slowly from AIDS-related illnesses, and his father was torturously abusive -- and he has developed a talent for violence borne of necessity as well as taking strange pleasure in hurting other people. One evening, Tsotsi shoots a woman while stealing her car, and only later discovers that her infant son is in the back seat. Uncertain of what to do with the baby, Tsotsi takes the boy home and tries to care for it -- going so far as to force Miriam (Terry Pheto), a single mother living nearby, to nurse the baby. With time, Tsotsi learns the basics of child care, and the presence of the baby awakens a sense of humanity in him that life on the street had stripped away. Tsotsi was adapted from a novel by the award-winning South African writer Athol Fugard.

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Critic Reviews for Tsotsi (Thug)

All Critics (129) | Top Critics (36)

  • It is a first peek at a South Africa that doesn't need a Hollywood studio or Hollywood stars to present itself to the world, or to come to grips with itself at home.

    Apr 7, 2006 | Rating: 4/5
  • Unfolds in such clear-eyed, powerful fashion that its characters become unforgettable, and the movie lands a big-time emotional punch.

    Mar 24, 2006 | Rating: B+
  • To feel the full power of the movie's wrenching story, you must not rush to judge or embrace young Tsotsi. He is an enigma whose journey is the story.

    Mar 24, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • A deeply moving portrait of a human being, suffering in life and not having any handle on how to deal with it. It's tragedy, not melodrama.

    Mar 24, 2006 | Rating: 4/5
  • The picture can be squishy and obvious. Yet it works, thanks to Gavin Hood's straightforward, sensitive direction and his star's emotionally charged performance.

    Mar 23, 2006 | Rating: B+
  • This deceptively simple movie brings to mind Italian neo-realist classics of the 1940s, and Presley Chweneyagae, an amateur actor, is wholly convincing as the disoriented Tsotsi.

    Mar 18, 2006 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Tsotsi (Thug)

  • Oct 30, 2015
    Although it paints an intriguing tale of redemption given its rather unlikable protagonist, TSOTSI ultimately suffers from an awkward pace that often stymies the momentum while raising too many questions regarding believability. Gavin Hood directs newcomer Presley Chweneyagae to a difficult and bravura performance - the best part of the film - but the film's strength in its title character of Tsotsi eventually becomes its biggest weakness: the entire plot never surpasses its risky premise, both redemption and forgiveness are not earned for Tsotsi (and viewers), and the film fails to bring enough to invoke sympathy. Just when we are about to be drawn in, the tone either takes a phony shift or a character's action withdraws the intensity - a shame considering its strong first act.
    Sheldon C Super Reviewer
  • Jul 22, 2013
    A hard-hearted street thug accidentally kidnaps a baby and must care for him. A basic morality tale, Tsotsi hits all the right notes in a maudlin song. The healing power of love, the innocence of childhood, the permanence/importance of parental love -- all the usual themes are stuffed in this film. Added to this is the simplistic explanation for Tsotsi's behavior, his abandonment by he parents. Overall, it's all a cliche, but it's a well done cliche.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Jun 01, 2012
    So this movie really won the Academy Award for best foreign film of 2005? What, were there no better foreign movies that year? Not to say that the movie isn't good because it is, but it's in no way great nor even really good. It almost turns into one by the end but I just didn't get into the movie as I would've liked. The movie is definitely very simple, which isn't the problem, in fact I commend the movie for its simplicity and the story of this man trying to redeem himself from his criminal ways through his 'care' for the baby. This is a good idea for a story...in theory. Here's the thing, the redemption simply consists of Tsotsi going to sleep a bad guy and waking up a good guy. That's all it is really, there's no real sense that he'd really changed other than because the movie just chose to present it as such. And his connection to the "baby" wasn't really much either, I mean he's with the baby at least 15-20% of the movie, that's not enough time to get a sense of how he truly changed for how much he had to take care of the child. Especially considering he had ANOTHER person, a woman with a child, take care of him for a chunk, not a big one, of that time. So take that and the fact that his turn into a good guy just consists of a magic wand being waved and him being good, it just seems that a sizable, and very important, part of the movie is completely missing from the finished product. I thought Presley Chweneyagae's performance was good, but people were raving about it and I just don't see it. Other than the last scene, he never really stood out as anything special as an actor. A good, if unimpressive performance. The more I talk about it, the less I actually liked this movie, which may be due to the fact that I just watched Requiem for a Dream just a few hours before I saw this one. And it's hard not to compare the quality of both films even if it's unrealistic and unfair. It didn't engage me in any way whatsoever. Of course the movie's never BAD. I just think it's an average movie that's missing a LOT of information that you're expected to sort of fill out on your own and that's just lazy to me. If it was at least ambiguous, in allowing you to make your interpretation of what happened, but the movie is pretty straight forward so you'd expect it to feel more complete than it is. Disappointing stuff here.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • May 07, 2012
    This essentially simple story becomes a genuinely astounding film: bolstered by raw and engaging performances, thoughtfully directed and filmed. Utterly captivating.
    Louis R Super Reviewer

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