This extravagant South African drama tries to be a full-throttle gangster pic, a sensitive coming-of-age tale, a supernaturally-tinged serial killer thriller, a social-realist romance and an inspiring redemption story all at the same time – and damn near pulls it all off.
Shot in and around the massive Khayelitsha township on the Atlantic coast near Cape Town, ‘Four Corners’ follows four characters -– chess-obsessed teenager Ricardo (Jezriel Skei), reformed ex-con gang leader Farakhan (Brendon Daniels), British-trained doctor Leila (Lindiwe Matshikiza) and crumbling cop Tito (Abduragman Adams) – as they try to steer clear of a decades-old war between rival gangs The 26 and The 28.
Director Ian Gabriel can’t be faulted on his ambition: clearly inspired by ‘City of God’, ‘Four Corners’ aims for an all-encompassing portrait of street life in modern South Africa. And while it might not equal its Brazilian predecessor in eye-frazzling intensity, Gabriel’s film offers subtler pleasures. The performances are impressive, particularly Skei as the permanently pinched and fearful Ricardo, and Tito as a convincingly world-weary lawman. The landscape is beautifully photographed – Table Mountain has never looked so ominous, rising above a sprawl of shacks and smokestacks.
And while the script may ultimately attempt too much – it’s the female characters who get left behind when the narrative noose tightens – the cumulative effect is powerful, credible and unexpectedly entertaining.