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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

HOSTAGE -- DVD Review by Porfle

IndiePix's "Retro Afrika" series does it again with another long-neglected, now rescued and restored South African apartheid-era film made for black audiences denied access to mainstream theaters.

HOSTAGE (1986) is one of the more serious offerings in the series, being the story of an aspiring crime boss who kidnaps a successful businessman's wife in order to force the man to give him access to his warehouse for storing drugs.

The would-be drug lord, Bra Jack, is played by South African cinema's ubiquitous handsome leading man Innocent "Popo" Gamede, the most competent actor in the cast. His cohorts, Jabu and Thabi, specialize in setting up rich married men (Thabi seduces and drugs them, then Jabu takes pics of them in bed together) for blackmail.

But Bra Jack wants to expand into the drug business, hence his attempt to secure the cooperation of warehouse owner Jackson.  When he refuses, Jack kidnaps Jackson's wife Thuli and holds her for ransom.

But Jackson has an ace up his sleeve--stocky tough-guy friend Michael, who takes charge of the situation and proves a formidable threat to the bad guys' scheme.

Being the sole IMDb credit for director Michele Hartslief, HOSTAGE is nevertheless one of the better films of this kind I've seen, although this assessment is purely relative.

It's still a makeshift, no-budget affair that's strictly amateurish on every level, yet it's just this quality that makes it so much fun to watch. It's like the cinematic equivalent of primitive art, aesthetically pleasing on its own unique terms despite its imperfections.

Acting by most of the leads is unpolished but engaging, with each member of the cast making the most of their parts.  One glaring omission is my favorite "Retro Afrika" regular Hector Mathanda of such films as FISHY STONES, THE COMEDIANS, UMBANGO, and ISIBOSHWA.

The story is simple enough, with a plot that would make the typical Hardy Boys mystery seem complex.  Thuli gets kidnapped, escapes, is recaptured, and then there's a tense showdown between the two factions that ends in gunplay.

Scenes play out mostly in long master shots with lots of dialogue to pad things out.  Camerawork is mostly of the home movie variety, but like every other element of the film, this only adds to its charm. A sprightly disco/techno score is another plus.

My usual disclaimer in regards to these "Retro Afrika" films still applies: if you require polished technical and artistic values in your film fare, chances are this one will prove less than watchable.

But if you, like me, thoroughly enjoy watching a film effort lovingly devised by unpolished yet enthusiastic filmmakers yearning to entertain, then HOSTAGE should prove a uniquely pleasing and perhaps even delightful viewing experience.

Buy it at Indiepix

Buy it at Amazon

Actors: Pepsi Mabizela, Innocent Gumede
Format: Color, NTSC
Subtitles: English
Number of discs: 1
Not Rated
Studio: Indiepix Films

Extras: Trailer
DVD Release Date: March 12, 2019


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