As with Yesterday, this is another film from South Africa that gives us a view at the extremely depressing life of the poor, black residents of that country. This time Tsotsi - "thug" - is a teenager with seemingly no moral values whatsoever. He and his buddies go from their township into the city where they viciously attack - and sometimes kill - for money.
Tsotsi ventures out one night on his own to an affluent suburb where he carjacks and shoots a mother in front of her home. He drives away, crashes the car, and then finds that there is an infant in the back seat. Tsotsi is so vile and without any redeeming moral values that you think he will just leave the child in the wrecked car where it will surely die from exposure, but instead, he takes the child with him back to his small room in the township. It is from this point in the film that Tsotsi's hard coatings of brutality are slowly peeled away to reveal the history of the young innocent who would eventually become the thug.
Tsotsi is played by Presley Chweneyagae whose face has an amazing ability to appear as the incarnate of evil and then be totally angelic. His acting is powerful and much of the power is unspoken.
A young woman in the township who assists Tsotsi with the infant is played by Terry Pheto. Her face is one of beauty supported by serene dignity - a dignity that she brings to the role of her character.
There are numerous stark images in the film that emphasize the difference in the lives of the haves and have nots of the country. One such image is the vast treeless desert-like area between the city and the township accentuating the no man's land that divides the classes. It is a divide that is impossible to cross - not physically but socially.
As often in life, there is no happy ending for the protagonist, but there is a sense of humanity and dignity renewed. Tsotsi is a potent, rewarding film that entertains and challenges the viewer.