Die Laaste Tango or The Last Tango is a feature film directorial debut for renowned South African thriller author, Deon Meyer. The adaptation benefits from having Meyer at the helm as writer-director as he’s able to add authenticity, passion and special character insights, bringing out the best from his actors.
Meyer is no stranger to crime thrillers and this story weaves together enough plot lines for two films. Die Laaste Tango follows a disgraced detective (Venter), who finds solace in the arms of an ill woman (Louw) as the past catches up with him and the once peaceful Karoo town of Loxton.
Die Laaste Tango stars Louw Venter and Antoinette Louw as the crime thriller’s central characters, De Wet and Ella. Venter is probably best known for his comedic roles, but demonstrates his dramatic range and great screen presence with a well-balanced performance as De Wet, a restless and haunted man trying to reconnect with life.
Antoinette Louw’s literal girl-next-door role complements Venter as the fragile yet spirited Ella. She’s comparable with Emily Blunt in likeness and performance, turning a fading flower into something beautiful, determined to hold onto every drop of life. The co-leads have a magnetic on-screen chemistry that adds dramatic weight to the production.
Marius Weyers throws his star power behind the film, rounding off a strong supporting performance with a truly moving moment as Kaptein Duvenhage. Stian Bam’s intensity sells the thinly scripted serial killer, Basson. Then, it’s great to see Rob Van Vuuren giving his all as a particularly poisonous and sleazy defence attorney.
Unfortunately, Die Laaste Tango feels like two films were glued together. The plot involving De Wet’s integration and reformation in Loxton is directed like a coming-of-age drama and doomed romance. We’re invested in the plight of the characters, the town and want the co-leads to enrich one another.
The other plot revolves around the rehabilitation and incarceration of a known serial killer. The two plots are linked, set in different environments but are like day and night when it comes to genre, characterisation, performance and tone. Most of the hospital scenes could have been lifted from a South African soap opera and walk a thin tightrope between dead serious drama and madcap comedy.
The overall story itself builds to a crescendo as all the story lines intertwine. Yet, it seems overcooked as the lightning, church bells and main players assemble as if scheduled like a noonday showdown, complete with Saloon and tumbleweeds. This among a number of smaller story devices that just seem a little heavy-handed and convenient.
The soundtrack checks all the boxes for a low budget production, but some of the sound effects need work and while the choice of music isn’t bad, it’s somewhat distracting. There are moments when silence could have been used to greater dramatic effect.
Audiences will enjoy the film for it’s strong key performances, intriguing story and some great cinematic ideas. Unfortunately, the entertainment factor will be diminished by its inconsistent tone, somewhat distracting soundtrack and one too many plot contrivances.
The bottom line: Inconsistent