DIRECTOR: Carey McKenzie
CAST: Tony Kgoroge, Fana Mokoena, Yu Nan, Deon Lotz, Thomas Gumede and Zolani Mahola
RUNNING TIME: 76 min
SOUTH Africa has a rich tapestry of stories, which have given birth to mesmerising movies capturing our history, culture, diversity and, last but not least, that indomitable spirit of our beautiful nation.
We should be proud that our home-grown offerings cover the full gamut of genres, from comedy, adventure, political, animation, sci-fi, crime thrillers, Films like District 9, Tsotsi and Jerusalema have helped to raise the benchmark. Even Material, despite its drawbacks in parts, struck a chord with its subject matter.
The point I’m making is that we should salute film-makers of great local offerings, but – and I say this with no intended disrespect – we should not be so accepting of offerings that are phenomenally below par.
Unfortunately, Cold Harbour is in this category.
It is centred on hardworking policeman Sizwe Miya (Kgoroge), who is tasked with solving the murder of a Chinese man found washed up on a Cape Town beach.
The man’s skin has been sliced off, and evidence points to a link to the Triads. Sizwe has a lot riding on the case, which could see him finally being promoted to detective.
His friend and superior, Venske (Lotz), also takes an interest in the case, which uncovers an abalone smuggling operation with ties to a gangster, Specialist (Mokoena).
Unknown to Sizwe, his movements and interactions with Soong Mei (Nan), a Chinese shipping executive with her own agenda, are monitored by Legama (Gumede), a rookie cop.
The deeper Sizwe delves, the more evidence he uncovers against those close to him, heightening his anguish as he is torn between loyalty and his sense of morality.
One of the cornerstones of a movie is a viable script. Cold Harbour perches its story on a rampant issue – the poaching of abalone.
McKenzie fleshes it out by adding badass characters like the power-wielding Specialist, Soong, and a lily-livered Legama.
As writer and director, McKenzie is more consumed with staying true to her vision for the story, which sees the direction tail off. In fact, there is no fluidity as the story flits from scene to scene.
That said, I cannot fault Kgoroge and Mokoena: they are superlative actors horribly short-changed. Their close friendship unhinges the image of Sizwe as a perceptive cop bound by his obligations.
While conflicted protagonists are engaging, it isn’t made clear whether Sizwe is buckling under the corruption around him or standing his ground. And the different scenarios – from his intimated closeness to Mei, to his hanging out with Specialist and getting a pay-off, and a face-off with his boss – make the storyline more rickety.
Even Specialist is built up to be a tough criminal figure, who is impervious to any kind of vulnerability as he has many influential people on his payroll.
Of course, the climax says otherwise. In fact everything becomes a hazy, convoluted mess, where the fight scene – not forgetting that hijack scenario – is reduced to gaucherie.
Sadly, with the ham-fisted direction and shabby script, Cold Harbour is submerged in disappointment and ennui.
If you liked Jerusalema, Tsotsi or Hijack Stories… you should enjoy this.