Zulu is a crime caper set in South Africa, starring Forrest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom. It starts off with the brutal murder of a young woman and from there delves deep into the underbelly of Cape Town, the aftermath of the Apartheid and some genuinely jaw-dropping moments...
Now I had not heard anything about this movie before I saw it. After some research, it seems that it was even in the line-up for Cannes, which doesn't say much about the movie as it is, but it means that there is definitely some promise for it to be chosen. And there really is a lot of interesting stuff in this movie... It's what it is built around that is the problem.
About half an hour into this movie, it had lost me almost completely. Until that point, it plays out like the most cliché cop-movie you can imagine. Two very different partners in Whitakers workaholic, insomniac depressed Zulu (pretty much a direct quote from the movie describing him) and Blooms messed up womanizer. It keeps to every basic plot-point of the genre, edging towards noir sometimes. But at the half hour mark, the movie does something that is so unconventional and different, it actually managed to pull me back in a little.
There are some other parts that work in this movies favour. The setting elevates it and makes for a lot of atmosphere. Cape Town in this movie is violent, dangerous and depressing. Sadly the atmosphere is often lost as soon as the dialogue starts, which is more than just clunky at points. Especially the first connection made to the Apartheid regime feels very forced.
The two leads both do a good job, especially as their character arcs are probably the most unconventional and memorable thing about the movie. Bloom gets as dirty as he ever was as Will Turner, his tale one of redemption of a headstrong and generally unlikeable renegade. Whitaker brings his usual charm and stoic face to the role, a man whose repressed anger becomes more obvious as the movie goes on.
Another problem is that the movie introduces characters all the time, some of them potentially interesting, only to drop them after their second scene, never to be seen or heard from again.
All in all, the movie manages to elevate itself above what it actually is, a mostly cliché cop movie. The curveballs come often enough to keep you interested and the finale is actually quite impressive. Still this is probably one for DVD rather than cinema.
If you want, you can watch the trailer here, but it does give away a lot, so you've been warned.