A South African gold mining crew struggles with cultural pride, internecine friction and constant danger in the bracing, socially-conscious actioner “Soldiers of the Rock.” Despite overly-ambitious plotting, novelty of milieu and gritty action set pieces will earn pic fest play and distrib interest, with genre elements a good draw in ancillary.
To experience the world in which his father died, Vuyo (Vuyo Dabula) uses a break from business studies (paid for by dad’s meager savings) to join a jaded, well-muscled Johannesburg crew of deep level miners working lengthy shifts far underground — the “heart and soul of South Africa,” he calls them. Intense fraternization alternates with efforts of ex-con laborer Suto (Michael Dlamini) to organize the purchase of their own mine; his violent fate prompts a shift in power that leads to a harrowing subterranean showdown with crazed dissenter Husuthu (Glen Gabela). Seemingly inspired by both Ken Loach and Michael Bay, frosh helmer Norman Maake explores social tensions and cultural traditions without short-changing the action crowd (though second act could use some tightening). Tech package emphasizes palpable heat and claustrophobia of the mine with skill that belies film school origins of project.