Da 5 Bloods
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I May Destroy You
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Queen Sono – an uneven mess
For about two minutes I was seduced by Queen Sono's incredible cinematography, vibrant colour treatment, fresh styling, beautiful people and director, Kagiso Lediga's love letter to Joburg, and Africa. Then it all came crashing down.
The dialogue is peppered with corny Hollywood one-liners (I've got this! Let's go get'em!), rather sexist tropes (If you're going to be a bitch, you know, just be a bitch. Commit.) and baffling stereotypes (And they say the Zulu's are bad). To not even mention the convoluted and boring monologues on race relations, gender politics, etc. If you have something to say, show us, don't tell us. (Are you too much of a man to be led by a woman? Why be a mere man? Help me rebuild this continent and I will make you an emperor when it is borne again. Vitali kept you in the shadows. Come walk with me in the light with your head held high…)
The storytelling is all over the place. A beautifully shot scene in an open pit diamond mine, had me sitting up. The images of the mud-smeared miners immediately evoked empathy towards these exploited men. But then they are rounded up and addressed by their new leader in, wait for it, English. It made no sense in that setting.
As Queen, an agent known for her volatility, walks into a very dangerous situation, she is told via microphone, that her mother's killer has just passed away? Really?
Queen is chewed out by her sidekick for being reckless, but praised for good work a split second later, without a pause, or a reason for the deviation. The same goes for her boss reprimanding her, then offering her a shoulder to cry on a second later. It leaves your head spinning.
When Charlize Theron trained for Atomic Blond, she insisted they only use moves that an actual woman could perform to overpower men physically stronger than her. Queen Sono apparently packs quite the punch, because she easily knocks out dudes twice her size, all the while looking cool, but emitting very OTT grunts. The action in an action series needs to be believable, not? Or so grandiose, that it becomes part of the charm?
In District 9 all the different groups were initially made into caricatures, from the Afrikaners, to the Nigerians. Halfway through they morphed into something more. You saw past their stereotypical traits and witnessed them grow. In Queen Sono the stereotyping abounds, but it stays one dimensional. The Greeks are corrupt and sleezy. The Russians are cold and clinical. When Queen visits the white trash family there is the Klippies & Coke in plastic cups, exaggerated accents, the obligatory braai on a built-in braai, the car with open bonnet by the front gate and of course, the Vierkleur-flag.
Loyiso Madinga's normally lovely South African accent is replaced by something so comical it sounds like his voice was dubbed. I winced every time he opened his mouth.
There was one heart-warming and totally authentic scene, and had the series contained more of this, one could've forgiven it its flaws. Queen goes to visit her mother's grave along with her grandmother, played by the incredible Abigail Kubeka. You are immediately in awe of this icon.
They lovingly spar, as granddaughters and grandmothers do, then drive to granny's house. The trip is a hoot, as granny is half blind, but more importantly, not interested in driving on the right side of the road. Queen hilariously eyes her granny, the road and then tries the safety belt, which of course, has not worked in years. Pearl's comedic chops are showcased here, but also on the stoep, when granny goes on about gays needing to be fixed and whether Queen is perhaps a prostitute. I could've watched a whole episode of them on the stoep.