It was a little more than a decade ago when Nigerian movies were considered laughter gags because of how ridiculously bad everything about them was. From painful dialogue, tremendously poor CGI, and acting that makes you laugh at the hilariousness of the movie, Nigerian films or African action/thrillers in general would hardly be taken seriously. However, Donovan Marsh’s 2023 action thriller iNumber Number: Jozi Gold knows exactly what to deliver and how to appeal to an audience that’s used to Hollywood-level action. Starring his usual cast of Clementine Mosimane, S’Dumo Mtshali, Presley Chweneyagae, Fana Mokoena, Deon Lotz, Noxolo Dlamini, and others, it tells the story of two South African men who grew up in the same orphanage and went into the policing line. Moshoeshoe, aka Shoes, and Chili Ngcobo continuously fail to do anything substantial because of the raging corruption in the high ranks and the administratively suffering condition of the country. Here’s what Donovan Marsh’s movie iNumber Number: Jozi Gold brings you.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘iNumber Number: Jozi Gold’?
Orphans who found each other in the Kajama Home for the unfortunate, Chili and Shoes grew up to be police officers, but they differ starkly in their personality traits. While Chili is the angry young man who can’t keep still unless he’s jumping at the heart of conflict, Shoes is the more level-headed and timid man who prefers the security of his job over the impact his job brings. However, the two men are opposite sides of the same coin, as they need each other’s brawn and brains to function, and it’s the cooperation of these two that helps Chili go undercover to arrest the Hyena Man. Known for keeping a grotesque hyena as a pet, the gangster was infamous for making children work in his mines to excavate gold. The undercover operation goes wrong, and the cops are handed pyrite, or “fool’s gold,” and the Hyena Man goes scot-free for lack of evidence.
The Brigadier Nandi yells at Chili and Shoes because she can’t keep the promise of providing a cut of the gold to her superior, quickly indicating the corruption in the South African policing system. Although Chili quits because he won’t work with the Boers in the basement, the pastor who brought up him and Shoes in the orphanage reminds Chili of Shoes’ contribution to Chili’s life and and he realizes that his friend needs him. The two friends get to the basement, where they cooperate with Van Zyl, a Dutch man, and his team to go after the Gold Gang—siblings that loot gold and make Krugerrand gold coins with them. Chili decides to go undercover and awe the three siblings with his skills. Dimo, the brains behind the gang, lets Chili know that they’re not gangsters but Lesotho refugees who have a Robinhood-like goal: steal from the rich and give back to the poor. Chili is moved by the siblings’ desire to help those in need, and he wants to see their mission through, but Shoes and Van Zyl won’t stop chasing the Gold Gang because the siblings are no better than common criminals for them. Dimo reveals their biggest plan yet: to rob the Lesotho dictator’s gold reserves from the Johannesburg gold refinery and take them back to their homeland.
It’s revealed rather soon that the Brigadier has her own selfish intentions in the game, and she isn’t going to hesitate to use a rotten criminal like the Hyena Man to reach her goal. Things get complicated further when the Hyena Man turns out to be an intricate part of the plan of the Gold Gang, and Chili will have to keep his burning hatred for this criminal suppressed for the greater good. Meanwhile, Shoes is pursuing his best friend because that’s what his duty calls for. Will Chili be able to help the Gold Gang pull off this mother of all heists, or will the corrupted Brigadier, Van Zyl, Shoes, and the rest stop them from doing something good?
When you watch iNumber Number: Jozi Gold, be sure to switch to the original Zulu language to get the most authentic South African feel that Donovan Marsh and his crew work so hard to deliver. Apart from the clicks that make the Zulu dialect so audibly exotic, the finer look into the streets of Johannesburg and the slums where the protagonists spent their childhood is really well-made. Not only do you find yourself quickly engrossed in the story, but you also start taking in the socio-political conditions that make up the developing nation of South Africa. Like most nations that aren’t quite affluent yet but still trying, the consolidation of wealth with the top 1% while the rest of society lives in haggard conditions is portrayed with care in this movie. From the murals and graffiti of leaders and important personalities on the walls to the music that the Gold Gang siblings and Chili dance to, everything helps us get a deeper understanding of the inherently South African culture.
Speaking of the cinematography, you’ll be forgiven for mistaking it for an action thriller from the US because of how sleek everything looks. With crisp costumes and choreography that makes the audience shake to the beats of the Zulu songs, it makes for an enjoyable ride, to say the least. In fact, the CGI hyena looks very real and very gross, and that’s a stark improvement from the comical CGI of the African film industry in the 2010s. The fight scenes are also rather convincing and not just two characters flailing their arms and legs, hoping the editor can make it look realistic. Noxolo Dlamini as Brigadier Nandi shines, especially because of the anti-heroine role she plays to perfection. Apart from wielding superiority over her underlings, she lets her villainous side shine when the going gets tough in the later parts of the movie. S’dumo Mtshali needs special mention as well for playing the role of a cop who finds himself stuck in a corrupt system and wants to make a change for the betterment of his society, but his hands are tied because of the duties he’s supposed to fulfill. Thus, he needs to get out of the boundaries set for him and be a part of the peripheries of society if he hopes to make better.
A few aspects that could’ve been done better in the movie would be fleshing out the backstories of the Gold Gang a little more, especially how they came to be running this business. Also, we would have surely loved some more interaction between Dimo and Chili because it feels odd to start with a romantic angle and leave it hanging in the middle. However, the movie functions as a whole and delivers an exciting and thrilling ride, full of gold robberies, the ol’ switcheroo, and high-speed car chases. If you need a movie for the weekend featuring action, a little bit of drama, and one that also serves the need to change the scenery from the usual American city life, Donovan Marsh’s movie iNumber Number: Jozi Gold is the way to go.