South Africa loves to make movies around romantic comedies, crime dramas, historical events and slapstick. It’s a much rarer treat to see a proper crime thriller, and a well-made one at that. Jagveld, also known as Hunting Emma (it’s Afrikaans but with subtitles), is a tight, smart and fast-paced thriller that might have you guessing, but will definitely keep you entertained.
More thrilling local action
Emma is a mild-mannered teacher heading home to her family farm somewhere in the Northern Cape’s backcountry. Her car overheats. Then she hears a gunshot and assumes it’s a local farmer nearby. Heading in that direction to ask for water, she instead stumbles on a gang of drug smugglers executing a policeman who stopped them earlier. Now she’s in their crosshairs as they go after her over the harsh terrain.
Action in the bushveld
Jagveld is tightly packed in about 90 minutes. Stunningly shot, it’s full of smartly designed moments and attention to detail. Exposition is kept to a minimum and the story doesn’t spoon-feed. In fact, there’s enough texture here that the audience can make their own assumptions. For example, the movie never explains the relationship between some of the criminals, but you get the feeling they know each other well and might even have been military buddies. The script never says this, but there is a chemistry to this film that really adds to its richness.
Jagveld is a lean, mean movie that doesn’t waste time, and that’s very nice.
By the third act it has developed a distinct homage to Quentin Tarantino’s movies such as Kill Bill.
The acting is right up there too: Leandie du Randt is stunning as Emma, while Neels van Jaarsveld is in his element as the match-chewing villain Bosman who runs the gang. But everyone in the cast brings their best, which shows.
Jagveld has some weak spots, mainly a few moments around the action choreography. But these are easy to overlook. If you want to sit down for a good bit of edge-of-your-seat action, fire up Jagveld. The subtitles open this gem up for anyone to watch and, no matter who you are, you’ll be cheering for Emma all the way through.