Stander


          To individuals of a certain age, when you mention that there’s a
  sort of biographical film called
STANDER, they might think the subject
  is the gravelly-voiced character actor Lionel Stander, who is perhaps best
  remembered as the major-domo to the titular married detectives in the
  TV series
“HART TO HART.” Of course, given his tussles with the Blacklist,
  he might make an intriguing subject for a film, but this
STANDER is about
  a South African police captain who chucked it all in favor of a life of crime.
  It’s one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction tales that make for good
  viewing.

          By the mid-1970s, André Stander (Thomas Jane) was a man on the
  rise in the South African police force. The youngest captain at the time,
  Stander began to be disillusioned with the policies of apartheid. In a
  bravura set piece, director Bronwen Hughes shows the growing tensions
  by recreating the 1976 Tembisa riots. As the hoards of chanting Blacks
  approach the police forces, the cops respond by firing tear gas. The rioters
  volley the canisters back, and the police open fire – not with the usual
  rubber bullets, but with live ammunition. Stander is seen shooting an
  unarmed rioter dead and that image comes to haunt him. He asks
  to be relieved of riot duty, threatening his rise within the ranks.         

          One afternoon when he realizes that all the police are outside of
  the city on riot duty, he decided to test a theory as a lark. He dons a
  skimpy disguise, enters a Johannesburg bank, and robs it, giving his
  ill-gained loot to a poor Black. When he returns as the leading
  investigator, the flustered teller informs the policeman that the robber
  looked like him. Indeed, a Stander look-alike is arrested but the man's
  alibi held up.

          Emboldened, Stander carries out a few more robberies. His
  unsuspecting wife Bekkie (an underused Deborah Kara Unger) doesn’t
  really question where her husband is getting expensive things like a
  new watch. But that watch betrays him, and he’s eventually caught,
  arrested and sentenced to jail.

          While in prison, he is befriended by two inmates, Lee (Dexter
  Fletcher) and Alan (David Patrick O’Hara). Eventually, Lee and Stander
  manage to escape. They go back and break Alan out and the trio begins
  a life of crime. Known as the “Stander Gang,” they rob banks at will
  and practically beg to be caught by driving flashy cars and wearing
  gaudy outfits. With each burglary, they become bolder, even returning
  to the scene of one bank robbery after the manager goes on the
  radio and boasts of a hidden safe. Their spree eventually has to end,
  and Stander manages to escape to the United States where he is at
  loose ends, until he makes one final decision.

          Hughes starts the film off with a bang with Stander’s remarriage
  to Bekkie and then with the riots. Once the movie shifts to the jail
  and the aftermath, though, it’s as though the political context of the
  film never occurred and
STANDER settles into a caper movie that
  eventually loses steam and peters off to its somewhat inevitable
  conclusion. Thomas Jane offers his best work yet as the charismatic
  leader of the gang (even if a few of the disguises push credibility),
  but even he gets buried by the shift in tone.

                        

                          Rating:               B-
                          MPAA rating:       R for violence, language, some sexuality
                                                      and nudity
                          Running time:     111 mins.
© 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Right Reserved.