A man who neglects his family is not a real man. This is the sage piece of advice that Dudu (Bongile Mantsai) and younger brother Duke (Thembekile Komani) receive from their father in Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s powerful Knuckle City. The irony is that their father, a legendary boxing champ in the South African township of Mdantsane, did not practice what he preached. In fact, the brothers have grown up to embody their father’s worst traits.
Dudu became a boxer and womanizer who, despite past successes, is now at the age where cannot even secure a spot on a low-level fight card. Determined to prove he still has gas left in the tank, Dudu reaches out to Duke, who is firmly entrenched in the criminal underworld, for help. Though his boss holds a firm grip on the boxing industry, Duke’s temper and reckless antics threatens to both derail Dudu’s career and put the entire family in danger.
Bongile Mantsia made for a good lead playing the role of a down-and-out boxer from Mdantsane in Jahmil Qubeka’s latest film, Knuckle City. Raw, unfiltered, thrilling and hilariously unconventional, it is the first boxing feature film in South Africa. The apparent emotional intelligence in the opening scenes quickly sets the film’s tone as the characters and their roles slowly start to make sense.
The constant use of profanity might at times be a turn off for some, but Qubeka’s nonlinear narrative is one that depicts the ugly truths of South African township life and it is also one that touches on the that men are expected to play in family life. it was amazing to see Thembikile Komani’s character play an important supporting role as Dudus careless, quick-witted, younger gangster brother.