With it’s deplorable production values and overly convoluted plot, there are few movie titled as appropriately as Hard to Get. Zee Ntuli’s debut film not only serves as a lesson to first time feature directors, but to financiers of cinema on some hard lessons that could be quite easily learned.
A mysterious woman (Thishiwe Ziqubu) escapes kidnapping, later stumbling upon a young man (Pallance Dladla) in a rural township before seducing him into a life of crime. They subsequently incur the wrath of a local gangster whose car they end up stealing, and joyriding to Johannesburg for new opportunities in the sleazy underbelly of the city.
If you’re a fan of South Africa’s endless crime-based films, then you maybe the only one that “gets” Hard to Get. Also note that this film is subtitled, but the dialogue is so inane, the chances are you won’t be reading them anyway.
The Bottom Line
I will admit without hesitation that Hard to Get is technically one of the most broken movies that I’ve ever seen. Zee Ntuli takes a humble story and somehow manages to not only grossly overcomplicate and convolute it, but completely discards any technical finesse that would otherwise be a given in this and any genre. The editing is beyond repugnant with pacing all over the show, the camera work is incompetent at the best of times, the sound mixing is of the lowest order, and the continuity is so incredibly flubbed that it forms the basis of one of the most bizarre and hilarious continuity errors that I’ve ever seen.
Hard to Get, isn’t just mission to understand on a technical level – the writing is filled with a similar discord. The dialogue is trite, the characters are insipid, and the story bland, once again taking on the recent trend of derivative thug-life get rich quick type films that have been overpopulating the South African cinema line-up.
What the film boils down to is an oversexualised femme fatale who manipulates a young playboy into doing her bidding for pussy, and she’ll lead him on till he’s got nothing left. This is NOT a strong woman, and as much as the feminazis of the internet would like to believe it is, her openly deceptive character is downright reprehensible. Her male counterpart is equally inept and tends to drop the ball when he tries to show how big his balls are.
The only redeeming factor is that this film inadvertently ends up as a comedy due to some odd choices in camera shots and dialogue. This may or may not be a concious directing decision but feels more like a mistake – either way, it elevates this film out of Birdemic territory into something that is at the very least mildly entertaining.
I feel somewhat guilty spouting such harsh criticism as this is the debut film of the young Zee Ntuli, but lessons must be learned, and with Ntuli’s narcissistic stamp all over this film, it appears as though he’s more interested in being a rock star than a filmmaker – my lesson to you is that the film comes first and fine, thoughtful directing is the hallmark of a great talent; all extraneous signatures should flow as a natural, stylistic extension of the product thereafter.
And to the NFVF or whoever financed Hard to Get: do you think South Africans watch movies like this? Because if you want more shitty movies, that’s how you get more shitty movies. Stop financing cinematic ventures that do not speak to the South African heart – we possess a culture that is rich and diverse with stories that reflect us as a nation, and just because you choose one that shows the Jo’burg skyline and the slums of who-knows-where, it does not define the film as being true to us. I say this not to call you out, but to sincerely give you an insight into how we can grow our industry because the one thing we have is the ability to produce great local content, you need only look at Material as a reference point.