Los Angeles Times

Fast-Paised review: 'Catch a Fire'

In early 1980s South Africa, oil refinery foreman Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke) is persecuted by an officer (Tim Robbins) who is against terrorism but in favor of the country's apartheid system. The flick is based on a true story.

Big question: Can director Phillip Noyce ("Patriot Games," "Clear and Present Danger") deliver another electrifying, violent political tale?

Catch it: Luke ("Glory Road," "Antwone Fisher") is a fiery actor, and in "Catch a Fire" he once again passionately gives all of himself to the role. The film could use some more context about apartheid, and the final act is a jumble of action and clunky storytelling. But Noyce's energetic direction makes "Catch a Fire" crackle at every turn.

Skip it: If you want a moral exploration of Chamusso's choices. The movie whizzes by without really taking a close look at what's happening.

Bottom line: Even when "Catch a Fire" engages, it gradually seems to be losing track of what it's about or why it's relevant today. Thanks to Luke, though, the film is never in danger of losing its spark.

Bonus: Be careful what you label your children. While Chamusso's wife, Precious (Bonnie Henna), might seem to have a pretty name, it just makes us think of "Lord of the Rings." And Gollum isn't exactly a looker!

Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.

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'Catch a Fire'

Directed by Phillip Noyce; screenplay by Shawn Slovo; photographed by Ron Fortunato and Garry Phillips; edited by Jill Bilcock; music by Philip Miller; production design by Johnny Breedt; produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Anthony Minghella and Robyn Slovo. A Focus Features release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:42. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for thematic material involving torture and abuse, violence and brief language).

Patrick Chamusso - Derek Luke

Nic Vos - Tim Robbins

Precious Chamusso - Bonnie Henna

Zuko September - Mncedisi Shabangu
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