Stander is one of those films that should have catapulted its star into the stratosphere but It didn't. Actually what it should have done was get Thomas Jane an Oscar nomination at the very least, but it didn't what it did was come out in the US for a brief period and then slipped almost immediately on to home view where its remained mostly forgotten ever since.
I remember reading a couple of glowing reviews for the films when it came out in the US but mostly I remember it going nowhere. I remember trying to tell people about the film but nothing was clicking, people didn't know about this film about which I was talking and they didn't want to know.
Sadly they still don't.
Actually Stander is one of the films that was the inspiration for this blog. To be sure it wasn't one of the recent films that pushed me to begin Unseen Films, but it was, way back when, one of the films that planted the seeds in my head about finding away to tell people about the good films that no one is watching.
The title, which I think is part of the problem, is a name. Looking at it the title means very little and may confuse you on the face of it. What it is is the last name of Andre Stander, a police officer in South Africa who got fed up with the way things were and he changed sides (at least that's the legend)
Stander's change of heart is supposed to have come when he killed an unarmed man during a protest. Fed up with the hypocrisy he started to rob banks...while still a police officer. He was caught tossed into jail and then escaped and continued robbing banks. To some he became an antihero, to others he was public enemy number one. I've done a bit of reading on the man and I'm not sure what the absolute truth* is (and anyway that's not the point of the film)
The film charts Standers life from just before the protest on into his lives of crime.
Its really impossible to talk about this film with out talking about Thomas Jane. He's in there somewhere, but I would be hard pressed to know where since as far as I'm concerned the only person on screen is Andre Stander. This was one of the best performances of 2003 and probably of the first decade of the twenty first century. Jane is amazing disappearing into the role in away that is even better than the much heralded actors and actresses of our age. I mean forget Meryl Streep who always shines through even when submerged into her role, Jane disappears completely.
In reading some material on this film in preparing to write this piece I read a CNN piece from when the film came out where the producers said that Jane was picked because a clip reel they saw showed that Jane was never the same person twice. They wanted some one to disappear into the role and that's what happened.
For me this was the point that I first noticed Thomas Jane as an actor. Actually I noticed his name since I'm still hard pressed to know what he looks like and what roles he's played because he has, for the most part, maintained that chameleon like quality. I suppose that ability is a curse since you don't get a sense of him as "personality" but its allowed for some great roles in films and TV shows like The Mist, Killshot, 61 and Hung.
If you want to see how good an actor can be see this film.
This is currently out on DVD
*There is a question as to whether Stander was a good guy broken by what he saw or whether he was just a terrible person who crafted a tale to gain sympathy. I'm guessing the truth is that he wasn't quite the (anti)hero some have made him out to be and things conspired for him to create a legend after he decided to just throw his hands up and go for the money.