Filmed in Cape Town and Namibia, City of Violence is a film noir that delves into the depths of the enduring scars of Apartheid against the backdrop of a spate of horrific murders. Two policeman, Brian Epkeen (Orlando Bloom) and Ali Sokhela (Forest Whitaker) are called to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. As they uncover the origin of a deadly drug that leads to more deaths, they become embroiled in a cycle of violence with deeply disturbing links to Project Coast, the Apartheid government’s secret biological and chemical weapons programme.
The investigation also unearths the personal demons these men face, specifically Ali who, although convinced he’s been able to forgive the violence he endured during Apartheid, learns that inner demons often linger. Meanwhile Epkeen is still dealing with the after-effects of a bitter divorce and a reckless lifestyle.
While they’re not South African (and their accents sometimes falter) the two leads give classy performances. Whitaker is convincing as the haunted Ali, whilst Bloom immerses himself in the role of the deeply flawed Brian (who’s unlike any character he’s played before). The South African cast give smaller, but impressive performances, especially Denise Newman who plays the shebeen queen and ex gang member-turned-actor Randall Majiet (Cat).
City of Violence is undoubtedly gripping, but its graphic violence can sometimes be hard to stomach. The film presents an honest, but disturbing picture of the nature of forgiveness and will leave filmgoers feeling somewhat uneasy. It nevertheless provides an interesting perspective on universal human challenges.
For more insights into the film, read our interview with its French director Jérôme Salle here. City of Violence releases in cinemas today.