'Impunity': Toronto Review

Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival
A muddled killing-spree film with presumed allegorical intent

Two lovers kill the deserving and innocent on a South African rampage

Less a South African noir than a limp shadow of Natural Born Killers that omits the Pop in its look at a violent culture, Jyoti Mistry's Impunity sends a pair of lovers on a killing spree that is only partly comprehensible. Export value is nil for this would-be thriller, whose conceptual goals are vague and beyond the reach of its screenplay and cast.

Barmaid Echo (Alex McGregor) is about to be picked up by patron Derren (Bjorn Steinbach) when her boss rapes her after hours. Derren comes across this and intervenes; together they kill the man and head off to the beach, where they frolic and screw as soon as they've washed off the blood.

So far, so good, sort of, but then they go to visit a couple of Derren's friends, whose living room quickly becomes a place of awkward silences and unexplainable sexual advances. The acting is so leaden here that it may have a gravitational pull radiating back in time: Before the scene even began, viewers were fleeing the auditorium in numbers that were impressive even given the fickleness of a TIFF Press & Industry screening.

The fugitives kill Darren's buddies for some reason, then head out to see how many others they can add to the body count. Mistry fractures the chronology in ways that might have been appealing had they started midway through to reveal some psychological underpinnings to this crime spree; instead, her screenplay piles on misdeeds by a politician of some sort and a police investigation by a pair of mismatched detectives.

Throughout, the filmmaker cuts to security-cam and news footage of violence both criminal and accidental. Newspaper headlines scream from phone poles of killings and riots, but they might as well all read "Big Statement Ahead." The statement never comes, or else is so setting-specific that those not steeped in South Africa's troubled racial history will fail to see it as it rushes by.

Production companies: Shadowy Meadows Productions, Bioskope Pictures

Cast: Alex McGregor, Bjorn Steinbach, Desmond Dube, Vaneshran Arumugam

Director-Screenwriter: Jyoti Mistry

Producers: Florian Schattauer, Ken Kaplan

Executive producers: Ketso Ghordan, Dipak Patel

Director of photography: Eran Tahor

Production designer: Esme Viviers

Editors: Melissa Parry, Khalid Shamis

Music: Chris Letcher


No rating, 90 minutes