The Dirty South – Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema

Is it worth commenting on a mediocre minor South African movie named in part after a Coolio song? Not really, but in honor of the World Cup taking place in South Africa I’ll bring Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema the massive attention a review on receives.

Do you remember the great Brazillian movie City Of God? Or the Academy Award winning Slumdog Millionaire? The filmmakers behind Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema do. They thought what made those movies so watchable was showing youngster’s learning lessons from the street and then growing up all Gangsta. So we meet young Lucky Kunene and his family growing up in a Shantytown. Lucky narrowly escapes a life of crime and flees to Johannesburg to get away from the cops. Ten years pass and Lucky and his brother are living the honest lives of  cab drivers. But after being kidnapped and almost killed Lucky decides to be a crime lord instead.

And this is where Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema fails to learn the lessons from City of God. That movie wasn’t amazing simply because it showed crimes being committed. It was because the characters struggled with their crimes. We saw their conflict, their desires, and the limited means they had to meet theose desires. In Jerusalema there are no consequences for one’s actions. One scene leads to another with no lessons being learned or tension building to a crescendo. The movie ends not with the protagonist’s punishment or redemption, it just kind of ends. This would be an original conclusion if I felt the creators intended to leave audiences with the message that crime does pay. But the movie’s ending instead leaves you thinking they didn’t know how to wrap it up, so they might as well deliver a happy ending.

I suppose the message could be Jeruslamea really is a Gangster’s Paradise. It’s a place where it’s easy to become the kingpin of the underworld. A place where all the cop’s bullets magically miss. A place where white women drive right to you to become your trophy wife. And it’s a place I don’t really get a feel for. In City of God you’re brought to the Brazillian streets. Slumdog Millionaire made India seem alive. The only detail I got from this movie about South African culture is that their music is reminiscent to The Lion King soundtrack. Last year’s science fiction satire, District Nine, gave me more of a feel for what South Africa might be like. But I’m certain the good citizens of South Africa are unconcerned about the less than stellar movie their country has exported, they have soccer riots to prepare for.


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