Hunting Emma (South Africa, 2017)

A pacifist slowly reverts to her past to survive in this South African thriller.

Emma le Roux is a kindergarten teacher who decides to go to the Karoo during school break to visit her father. She is heartbroken as her pacifist ways has led her to dump her boyfriend after he gets into an altercation with another man. Along the way, she starts to feel some car trouble and she breaks down. However, this will be a day that is destined to change her life forever.

A drug syndicate led by Bosman is attempting to transport a cache full of drugs on the road. The group consists of his henchmen Baz and Jay as well as AJ and Boela, two rich boys who are looking to get known and Piet, Bosman’s cousin who is nervous about joining the family business. When they are stopped by a local officer, the group shoots and ultimately kills the cop. When they find Emma witnessing what has happened, they have her trapped. However, she escapes and remembering what her father had trained her for, she must put her pacifist ways behind her if she plans to survive.

Making his feature film directorial debut, Byron Davis gives us a gritty feel to the survival film and brings in a protagonist who we see as anti-violence at first only to see her regress into a beast mode state in order to survive. It is one of those cases where we see the antagonists already being beasts, forcing the protagonist to go into her own brand of beast mode and thanks to her training in the past, uses her set of skills to take on the bad guys in the Karoo of South Africa.

Leandie du Randt is excellent in the role of the titular Emma. Sporting a hairstyle that makes her look like Uma Thurman’s Beatrix “The Bride” Kiddo in Kill Bill, du Randt starts out as a pacifist kindergarten teacher who even dumps her boyfriend after he punched another man, referring to it as a “man’s world”. It is when she witnesses our bad guys surrounding an officer and forced to run that the inner beast that had dwelled within for so long finally comes out as we learn in some great flashbacks that her father, an ex-Special Forces Commando, had trained her for years readying for something like this. For one particular action scene, she gets to throw down against one of the bad guys in hand-to-hand combat and despite some doubling for certain points, du Randt holds herself pretty well, having trained in martial arts for the film.

Neels van Jaarsveld is vicious as the main villain Bosman. His gang consists of the bulking Jay, played by actor/singer Bouwer Bosch and the sadistic Baz, played by Tim Theron. Add to the mix three young stalwarts who want to be a part of something notorious for kicks. They are AJ, played by Somer Son’s Danie Putter and Boela, played by Die Pro lead star Edwin van der Walt, who compares rape to food at one point when they have Emma initially trapped. The final member, Piet, is Bosman’s cousin played by Luan Jacobs. Piet is the most scared of the bunch as his constant nerves make for him putting the gang in one bad situation after another. In some aspect, you don’t wish anything bad on him because it is like he has second thoughts at times, but because of his association with Bosman, it is pretty expected what, or who, is coming for him.

Hunting Emma is a gritty and insane South African thriller about survival and one’s regression from pacifist to beast all in order to stop a vicious gang from killing her. Leandie du Randt and Neels van Jaarsveld churn out great performances and their climatic showdown brings to mind a modern-day Western feel. Definitely one for the action crowd.

WFG RATING: B+

kykNet Films presents an Allianz Artists Pty Ltd. Production. Director: Byron Davis. Producers: Amalia Uys and Diony Kempen. Writer: Deon Meyer. Cinematography: William Colinnson. Editing: Byron Davis.

Cast: Leandie du Randt, Neels van Jaarsveld, Tim Theron, Bouwer Bosch, Danie Putter, Edwin van der Walt, Luan Jacobs, Tertius Meintjes, Drikus Volscheik, Albert Maritz.

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