#REVIEW: “SHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS”
Review by Siobhan Rich for Mr. Will Wong
Despite having a star better known for his comedic roles, Shepherds and Butchers is anything but funny. South African Director Oliver Schmitz’s Courtroom-Drama about capital punishment is a harrowing look at the criminal justice system during the apartheid era. The Movie pulls no punches to remind its audience of the stark reality of the period including its depiction the mass executions of death row inmates.
Prison warder Leon Labuschagne (Garion Dowds) is on trial for a crime he cannot remember committing: murdering seven black soccer players. Prosecutor Kathleen Marais (Andrea Riseborough) foresees an open and shut case until defense attorney and fierce capital punishment opponent Johan Webber (Steve Coogan) agrees to take Labuschagne on as a client. Webber agrees that his client committed the heinous crime but contends that having assisted in the execution of 164 men over the previous two years has damaged his client in ways the court must acknowledge.
Although Brian Cox’s screenplay confronts the dehumanization of the victims of capital punishment it fails to fully address the racial inequality of the apartheid era. While Webber looks for an acquittal for his client he ignores the seven dead men and their families who want justice. While Labuschagne can clearly afford a top-notch defense team, the 164 black men whose executions he witnessed could not. Whether intended or not, Cox places Labuschagne’s white life far above those of the black men he murdered or those who died at the prison where he worked.
Capital punishment is a hot button issue with advocates on both sides of the argument. With the allusions to Voltaire in its title, Shepherds and Butchers pulls no punches about its stance on the issue. Strong performances from all of the leads help steer the movie away from being preachy and make for compelling viewing.
levelFilm release SHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS Friday, February 3, 2017.