Muggers and back-alley stick-up artists are just crooks, but a charismatic bank robber whose brazen exploits make the police look stupid and get bank managers' power neckties in a twist is something else. Andre Stander was that and more, a cop whose walk on the wild side started while he was still on the force. 1976, South Africa: Recently remarried to his first wife, Bekkie (Debra Kara Unger), Stander (Thomas Jane, who, like Unger, mastered a persuasive South African accent) is the Johannesburg Police Force's youngest captain ever. But after some 25 years of brutal apartheid rule, Johannesburg is a city divided and its black African citizens tired of being crowded into primitive, crime-ridden shantytowns while Afrikaners like the Standers are comfortably ensconced in middle-class suburban luxury. Members of the police force are expected to suppress protests in the townships, but Stander has an unsettling revelation during a particularly ugly confrontation: He doesn't have the stomach to shoot unarmed demonstrators in the name of racial-segregation laws, but dodging riot duty is professional suicide. Stander's response to the pressure is unusual: He impulsively walks into a downtown bank and robs it, so stunned by his success that he drops the ill-gotten cash into a newspaper boy's change basket. Instantly hooked on the criminal high, Stander dons a series of ingenious disguises and keeps robbing banks until he's recognized by one of his friends on the force. Sentenced to a lengthy imprisonment, Stander arranges a jailbreak with fellow inmate Patrick Lee McCall (Dexter Fletcher); they join forces with like-minded outlaw Allan Heyl (David Patrick O'Hara) and get right back to the business of bank robbery, reveling in the media coverage and thrilled by the increasing embarrassment their crime spree is causing Stander's old cohorts. Although notorious in South Africa, Stander is little known elsewhere and Canadian director Bronwen Hughes' unsatisfying account of his life and crimes is unlikely to earn him a spot on the outlaw celebrity A-list. Hughes' odd little undertaking features vivid recreations of Johannesburg in the late 1970s and early '80s, as well as lots of Jane in the buff: If the film is to be trusted, there was a strong clothing-optional streak in Stander's makeup. But Stander himself remains an enigma, perplexing without being especially interesting, and sidekicks McCall and Heyl barely register at all; you come away wanting to read a really good true-crime account of the Stander gang's exploits.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: R
- Review: Muggers and back-alley stick-up artists are just crooks, but a charismatic bank robber whose brazen exploits make the police look stupid and get bank managers' power neckties in a twist is something else. Andre Stander was that and more, a cop whose walk o… (more)