The heist genre might be one of the most exciting genres in film and television. Watching the thieves plan the theft and then execute it is incredibly fun. Things often don’t go as planned, making the story even more interesting as the characters have to make choices to escape their predicaments. It is a rather perfect formula for TV series, films, books, and even video games. Big Nunu’s Little Heist is a new heist movie coming to Netflix this weekend, and in it, Netflix goes to the heart of South Africa to tell the same tale but within a different setting.
Big Nunu’s Little Heist is a film written and directed by Andy Kasrils and starring Jefferson Tshabalala, Tony Miyambo, Amahle Khumalo, Thulani McKing, Daniel Hadebe, Thulane Shange, and Khanyisa Bunu.
The film tells the story of a Delivery Man, who is, yes, a delivery man. He will go on a mission to get something that belongs to him, only to then get in cahoots with a gang of thieves. Now, the gang recruits Delivery Man to help them in their mission to steal millions of ren to liberate their neighborhood from the fangs of politicians, and the government has abandoned them.
From the moment the film starts, it becomes clear that director Andy Kasrils is really trying to elevate his film to the next level. Looking at the sets, costumes, and such elements, it is obvious that Big Nunu’s Little Heist doesn’t have the resources other films have. This is a low-budget effort, but that doesn’t mean that the movie cannot be high-level at many other things.
And so, Kasrils goes out of his way to inject some style into the movie. From the way the camera movies to the framing of the shots and even the opening, offering some true grindhouse sounds and aesthetics. The director is pushing for his movie to be better than some others from the pile.
The director is successful at some points. The movie looks different from other South African productions, and the music makes the movie move frantically, especially during the first and third acts. However, while it is clear that an effort is being made here, the movie fails right at the foundation of its story and sometimes makes the watching experience quite boring.
That is the thing about filmmaking; every aspect of a movie is important. Every time we watch a very good movie, it is like a miracle as all the parts move in unison to make the experience unforgettable.
Sadly, this is not the case with Big Nunu’s Little Heist. The movie fails at creating compelling characters. Characters are a vital pillar of storytelling, and sadly, the characters present in this movie are all but compelling. Yes, Kasrils tries to give the characters several quirks, making them all unique individuals in the movie’s universe. However, these quirks seem to be the only thing that defines these characters.
In the end, the cast ends up feeling wacky and weird, but there is nothing beyond that point. And so when you try to engage with the characters, there is nothing to latch yourself to.
For example, our main character, Delivery Man, is quite an insufferable protagonist. He is thrown into a situation where he doesn’t want to be, and throughout the entire film, he remains totally unlikable. Characters can be unlikable. However, if that is the case, they must also be compelling or at least interesting.
We need to latch to them and be interested in where their stories are going. Delivery Man has none of these characteristics. The character seems not to want to be in the movie, which begs the question; Why would I want to watch it, then? By the movie’s end, Delivery Man feels like nothing special, even when the movie begs you to see him that way.
The same goes for Nunu himself. For what is a character deemed important enough for his name to be in the film’s title, he feels more like a joke that quickly runs out of gas. During his introduction, he can be perceived as funny and eccentric. However, he falls into the same issues as Delivery Man.
The character seems to be unable to change or expose himself in any way. And so, it makes you wonder why his name is on the film’s title. Who knows, but it isn’t because he is the best character. As the movie ends, the character feels so diminished that you will probably forget about him immediately.
The rest of the cast acts in the same way. There are all these wacky characters, but none of them are really characters.
They function more like plot devices to make the plot move around. Take, in comparison, one of the most famous heist movies ever. Reservoir Dogs by Quentin Tarantino is another low-budget movie whose action occurs mainly in a single location. Tarantino focuses on making its characters interesting and mysterious, so when the revelations come around, we can actually care about what is happening on the screen. It is hard to say, but by the end, I couldn’t really care where the money was or who would get it.
Big Nunu’s Little Heist is a film that tries, that is for sure. The direction pushes his film to the next level when it comes to personality and style, but sadly, the story and the characters feel way underdeveloped. Asking for the audience to care about characters like these is very hard.
There needs to be a reason why we are following these characters around. If there is none, then we are better off watching some other film. Right now, the competition for people’s time is hard, and creators need to understand that only the very best stories will be passed around by word of mouth.