Opening to Leon Labuschagne (Garion Dowds) driving through rural South Africa at night in the pouring rain with blood on his face, he is overtaken by mini bus containing members of a football team. Leon follows the mini bus to the end of a secluded quarry-like area. The door of the mini-bus opens and Leon proceeds to shoot the seven occupants dead. What proceeds is a very dark, very chilling court room drama that shows the interrogation and events in the run up to Leon Labuschagne killing these seven people.
Taking place in 1980s South Africa, Johan Webber (Steve Coogan) is the lawyer taking on the task of defending Leon in court because nobody else wanted to. Throughout the questioning of Leon, Johan finds out that he worked as a prison officer on death row where he fed, washed and built relationships with inmates before escorting them to a room where they have a rope placed around their necks and the floor dropped beneath them, leading to a line in the court room where Webber explains that you simply cannot expect someone to be Shepherd and Butcher at the same time.
This harrowing and upsetting story showed Leon being seventeen years old, new to the job with no training and no support forced to fulfil these duties, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Johan Webber attempts to claim Leon has diminished responsibility due to his mental state and the pressure he has been facing in his difficult job on death row. Johan had to try and prove this without stepping into the controversial discussion of the morals of the death penalty.
This is a very emotional and dramatic movie with a truly superb performance from Garion Dowds. Steve Coogan seemed like a very odd choice of actor for this role having previously focused on more comedic and less serious roles. Coogan’s performance didn’t seem too comfortable and seemed unpolished, notably the accent was an odd mixture between British and South African, slipping between accents quite regularly.
The story was interesting, but didn’t really shine as a movie. It felt like an extended TV court-room soap opera with the majority of critical scenes built on flash backs, it was a very grim, harrowing story, but didn’t hold much of a punch. I think this is because of the structure of the movie, it was too court-focused and was so dependent on these flash backs.