Soweto Blaze Image

Soweto Blaze

By Bobby LePire | April 25, 2024

Soweto Blaze, written and directed by Brad Katzen, is a weed-centric comedy in the vein of Half Baked and How High. The film takes place in Soweto, a town nestled along the southern mining area of Johannesburg. Given the trend of legalizing marijuana, do films like this have any bite left, or should they remain a relic of the past?

Mo (Matli Mohapeloa) is a small-time dealer who must pay big dividends to corrupt cop Thabo (Nhlanhla Mayisa) to avoid being arrested. But, the young man with dreams of opening a food truck makes a living thanks to his reliable stable of regulars, including his best friends Dill (Sydney Ndlovu) and Pickle (Nyeleti Khoza). Neither one of the people in this happy couple is the brightest bulb, but they mean well and are fun. After a sighting of the most feared man in Soweto, Lebo the Lion (Sello Sebotsane), an off-hand remark by Mo puts a crazy notion into Dill and Pickle’s head. They get the bright idea to kidnap Lebo’s daughter, Thandi (Dimpho More), and hold her for ransom.

Unbeknownst to these two, their idiotic plan has a few flaws. First off, neither Dill nor Pickle informs Mo of their intent to kidnap Thandie and use his place as their base of operations. Second is that Thandie was absconding with most Lebo’s money and got into their car believing it was a taxi of sorts. When Mo returns home, he’s aghast, to say the least. But as he tries to figure out how to resolve the situation, Mo discovers he and Thandie share a natural chemistry. However, Lebo’s planning brutal retaliation both on his daughter and her sort-of kidnappers. Is there a way out alive for the drug dealer and his well-meaning but not-so-smart friends?

“…get the bright idea to kidnap Lebo’s daughter, Thandi, and hold her for ransom.”

Soweto Blaze is a fast-paced romp with fast action and quicker punchlines. Katzen’s use of social media to introduce all the main players is inspired and stylish. It sets a playful mood while allowing for faster editing than would otherwise be called for. While there are only a handful of action sequences, they are well done and exciting. Mo shooting out someone’s leg from beneath a car stands out as especially marvelous. The way the filmmaking style changes throughout is inventive and stunning. Thandi’s “terrible life plays out like a low-rent soap opera, while the third act is introduced in a Shaw Bros. meets Sergio Leone way. The numerous cinematic influences are worn proudly on this production’s sleeve and used to dazzling effect.

The plot is a bit by-the-numbers, but the script makes up for that with an assault of jokes. Hardly two minutes go by that doesn’t have a visual gag or verbal punchline thrown out. The kicker is that most of the jokes land perfectly. This is in part due to the intelligent writing, with the other half of that being the cast.

The actors embody their roles to a T. Mohapeloa is likable and easy to root for. More is funny, elegant, and crazy all in one. Sebotsane is imposing and menacing. However, it is the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of Soweto Blaze who steal their every scene. Ndlovu and Khoza are magnificent and absolutely hilarious. Every delivery is over-the-top and ridiculous, which works for how inept these two are meant to be. They complement the more grounded and realistic Mo and Thandi without sacrificing any of the jokes, romance, or tension.

Soweto Blaze is a terrific surprise from start to finish. The cast works wonderfully together and effortlessly brings to life the comedy and thrills of the story. The script is outright funny all the time, with no joke missing a beat. Katzen’s evolving style keeps the film from feeling tepid or uninspired. This is one of the funniest films of the year.

Soweto Blaze (2024)

Directed and Written: Brad Katzen

Starring: Matli Mohapeloa, Nhlanhla Mayisa, Sydney Ndlovu, Nyeleti Khoza, Sello Sebotsane, Dimpho More, etc.

Movie score: 9.5/10

Soweto Blaze Image

"…a terrific surprise..."

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