Dangerous Ground

on February 14, 1997 by Bridget Byrne
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   Despite its laconic leading man, "Dangerous Ground" zips along in the confidentally stylish hands of South African director and co-writer Darrell James Roodt ("Cry, the Beloved Country"). Sporting over-the-top irony mixed with heavy-handed indignation, this action/adventure rap is about an African returning to his roots after growing up in America.
   Ice Cube, chunky but self-assured as the reluctant visitor named Vusi who is transformed into an action hero, brings an odd but not unappealing casualness to his role as the homecomer who finds mean streets and drug cultures have no boundaries. Journeying first to his village birthplace to honor his dead father, he finds little to relate to in the local tribal customs and can no longer understand the ways and language of his elders or even his dutiful but angry middle sibling. But his American slang, style and humor is also out of kilter with the city streets of Johannesburg where, in search of his missing younger brother, he finds a newly liberated, post-apartheid society running too hard in the wrong direction in the fast lane.
   Despite dialogue that's often too explicit, both literally and figuratively, the film speeds along an awkward path between conventional hardball slash-and-crash and acute insight into an emerging culture--but at least it speeds boldly. Roodt finds excellent visuals in both the rural and urban landscapes of his native land and draws striking performances from his international cast, which includes England's Elizabeth Hurley ("Passenger 57") as the lost brother's strung-out lady and Harlem-born Ving Rhames ("Striptease") as an evil Nigerian drug lord, as well as Ethiopian Sechaba Morajele and South African Eric Miyeni as Visu's siblings. But, essentially, though the film mixes up its visuals and booms over its score with real attitude, it is just another example of violence prevailing over all else. Starring Ice Cube and Elizabeth Hurley. Directed by Darrell James Roodt. Written by Greg Latter and Roodt. Produced by Gillian Gorfil and Darrell James Roodt. A New Line release. Drama. Rated R for strong violence, drug use and language, and for some nudity. Running time: 92 min
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