“Number 37,” a kind of South African “Rear Window,” is a gripping, well-constructed thriller written and directed by Nosipho Dumisa, from a story by Dumisa, Daryne Joshua and Travis Taute.
Unlike “Window,” which was set in and around a nice Manhattan apartment, “Number 37” takes place in the rough, crime-heavy Cape Flats area outside Cape Town. It’s there that Randal (Irshaad Ally), a small-time crook who uses a wheelchair after a violent drug deal left him paralyzed, lives with his devoted, if wary girlfriend Pam (Monique Rockman), who gives him a diversionary pair of binoculars.
One day, checking out his neighbors’ windows through said binoculars, he witnesses the murder (in apartment 37) of a dirty cop at the hands of Lawyer (David Manuel), a ruthless local gangster, and his minions, that nets Lawyer a cache of cash. Randal, in desperate need of funds to repay a sadistic loan shark (Danny Ross), hatches a dangerous scheme, one that will involve his dodgy buddy, Warren (Ephram Gordon), and later Pam, to blackmail Lawyer: the hoodlum’s money for Randal’s silence. But not so fast …
Dumisa masterfully — and entertainingly — builds, twists and compounds the tension as events spiral out of control and lives hang in the balance. Deeply emotive performances by Ally and Rockman plus a strong turn by Sandi Schultz as the dead cop’s partner, further elevate this tough, vivid film.
In Afrikaans with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes