Yankee Zulu

All-time top-grossing South African feature "Yankee Zulu" is a coarse comedy that thumbs its nose at subtlety in favor of slapstick excess and infantile vulgarity. This fast-paced fusillade of gags and gross-outs culminates in a well-sustained chain of "Home Alone"-style destruction, adding up to crowd-pleasing fare for undemanding markets.

Rhino - Leon Schuster
Zulu - John Matshikize
Diehard - Wilson Dunster
Rowena - Terri Treas
Tienke - Michelle Bowes

All-time top-grossing South African feature “Yankee Zulu” is a rollicking, coarse comedy that thumbs its nose at subtlety or sophistication in favor of broad-based yocks, slapstick excess and infantile vulgarity. This fast-paced fusillade of gags, groans and gross-outs culminates in a well-sustained chain of “Home Alone”-style destruction, adding up to crowd-pleasing fare for undemanding markets, in particular for small-fry auds. Pic was boisterously received atits first Cannes market screening.

Estranged childhood buddies Rhino (Leon Schuster) and Zulu (John Matshikize) are reunited when the latter is deported back home 25 years later from the U.S. after stealing one car too many. Rhino’s white-supremacist sweetheart was partly what drove his black friend to leave the country, and in his absence, they’ve been through a bad marriage and ugly divorce.

Ex-wife Rowena (Terri Treas) is now shacked up with Diehard (Wilson Dunster), a crazed, Nazi assigned to escort the prodigal Zulu to serve out his prison term. But Zulu escapes, making off with a winning lottery ticket and prompting an unrelenting chase. He hooks up with Rhino and his adopted daughter, Tienke (Michelle Bowes).

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A TV studio makeup artist disguises the two men by switching their color, giving Zulu a taste of white privilege and Rhino some experience of black servitude.

After infiltrating a shindig at Rowena and Diehard’s fortress-like love nest, the duo is discovered and threatened with death unless the lottery winnings are returned. But Tienke steps in with a resourceful attack plan, aided by Prince William of Windsor, gone AWOL from a royal tour.

Comedy is in the “Gods Must Be Crazy” vein, with the somewhat laboriously spelled-out anti-racism message thrown in to bulk it up. Little interest is shown in modulation or keeping events even vaguely within the realms of possibility, but the frenetic rhythm and shrilly hammy perfs will keep kids entertained.

Yankee Zulu

South African

Production: An Anant Singh and Distant Horizon presentation of a Toron Screen Corp./Koukas Troika production. Produced by Andre Scholtz. Executive producer, Edgar Bold. Directed by Gray Hofmeyr. Screenplay, Leon Schuster, Hofmeyr.

Crew: Camera (color), James Robb; editor, Johan Lategan; production design, Robert van der Coolwijk; costume design, Jo Katsaras; sound (Dolby), Conrad Kuhne. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 15, 1994. Running time: 88 MIN.

With: Rhino - Leon Schuster
Zulu - John Matshikize
Diehard - Wilson Dunster
Rowena - Terri Treas
Tienke - Michelle Bowes

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