Frank Manaka (Wandile Molebatsi) works at a paint shop as a bookkeeper. Like many honest and hardworking people, Frank does not make a lot of money from his job. With every month that comes, a new set of stressful responsibilities accompanies it. However, Frank’s life is about to change. When his childhood friend, Khaya (Godfrey Thobejane), comes up with a crazy money making scheme, Frank is convinced to steal money from his wealthy boss and bets it all on a fixed boxing match. The story progresses into a spiral of sticky situations that Frank and Khaya need to slip out of.
The actors’ performances may, at times, seem unnatural but the characters are intriguing, nonetheless. We have a range of personalities that work well together. Frank is, of course, the rookie crook with a mousy heart, but one who rises to the occasion. Khaya is the laid back friend who has all the bad ideas that “just might work”. We also have two cunning female characters, MK (Ncipa Zintle) and Lucy (Palesa Mofokeng), who add some crafty, no-nonsense energy to this exciting story.
The directing and scriptwriting certainly shows a few abnormalities that may be seen as flaws. Viewers may find this annoying or refreshing. Some of what the characters say and do contribute little to the development of the plot and there are a few parts that seem somewhat detached from the main mission and urgency of the plot, but I do not think this is necessarily a bad move.
There are a couple of scenes, for example, that I anticipated would lead up to something, but then the story just seems to move along. It becomes humorous that amongst all the craziness that is happening to the characters, people of the outside world may be affected or confused, but they are completely oblivious to the details. To them, our characters are just random people, even if a little weird. I would say this adds to the realness of the story. At times the characters also focus on details about their lives that are not as urgent as the pickle that they are in. This creates an interesting dynamic; that even amongst all the madness, it does not stop the characters from being concerned with seemingly less important parts of their lives.
So although many elements seem odd, they help make the story more sincere, and the comedy as well as the tension created by their circumstances, are more relatable.
Safe Bet is a well imagined story with an intriguing, conflict-driven plot. The sequence throughout most of the film is a little choppier than what one would normally expect. It seems a little rushed but at least the film moves at a good enough pace for plenty of action. The characters seem like real people who happen to get themselves into some extraordinary situations and we are able to appreciate the humour and urgency of the characters. A lot of elements in this movie work together to create a multidimensional story with a sense of novelty that does not seem contrived. I do think that Safe Bet may have been awesome instead of merely intriguing but I do not write off Ncube. There is much promise and a director to be watched.