There's something rather glorious about writer/director Renaldo Kell's average meets awesome revenge thriller The Bush Knife, a South African shot action flick starring Bruce Gounder as William Singh/Bush Knife, who finds himself in the crosshairs of a local gang leader, Ryan Mayne's The Skull, to such a degree that The Skull murders his wife (Angela Val Verde) and burns down his home leaving the whereabouts of his daughters, Kerry (Yarushka Singh) and Kathy (Livania Carnello), uncertain. What is certain? Singh is pissed and his new persona, Bush Knife, isn't about to roll over and surrender.
Soon to be released on Amazon Prime and Vimeo on Demand, The Bush Knife is a film that may very well be even more fun to watch precisely because of all its flaws. There's no question that Renaldo Kell is an ambitious filmmaker, the kind of filmmaker who figures out how to make his budgetary constraints work to his advantage and the kind of filmmaker who's unafraid to go for it all even if there's a chance to fail.
Kell does sometimes fail, but he absolutely never gives up and it's rather fun to watch it all unfold.
The Bush Knife doesn't have an original bone in its cinematic body, yet there's something about its unabashed, balls to the walls action that you can't help but keep watching. Determined to take down The Skull, Bush Knife unites with Detectives Rome (Jerome Naidu) and Michelle (Nerissa Reddy) and carves his way through every revenge thriller cliche' and caricature known to humanity in order to get his man.
With an estimated production budget of right around $20,000, it's easy to chalk up the majority of The Bush Knife's technical challenges to its obvious budgetary limitations. The truth is that I've seen vastly superior $1,000 films, but even with its technical flaws I've seldom seen a low-budget indie seemingly having this much fun with it all.
It's not so much that Kell and his cast and crew know that they're making an inferior film and have fun anyway. It's quite the opposite. There's something here about the joy of filmmaking that comes alive and it actually makes a mediocre film a whole lot more fun to watch. Among the key players, Sandile Dlamini's Chief of Police is clearly the stand-out even if his time on screen is far too limited. There's other solid players, but Dlamini actually gives us a rather strong character and seems to understand the film's tone.
Wynand Prinsloo's lensing is hit-and-miss, the film's obviously low budget creating chaos in the film's many dimly lit, difficult to visualize scenes. Prinsloo tries here, though there's simply too many challenges to overcome. On the flip side, however, Solodeep's original music for the film matches note-for-note the film's tonal peaks and valleys and takes us places we didn't even know we wanted to go. I could easily see myself listening to Solodeep's music all by itself.
The Bush Knife is a decent enough revenge thriller that will be a fun view for those who embrace the lo-budget, indie/experimental vibe. While there's not a whole lot experimental going on here, the entire film radiates that vibe anyway.
What can I say? It's an average film that I genuinely enjoyed.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic