Shepherds and Butchers (2016) Review


Lawyer Johan Weber takes on a hopeless case of multiple murder from a South African prison guard, when he delves deeper into the background of the man he is traumatised from his job and the executions he took part in.


 A truly tough and difficult subject matter from my point of view being British I have never had to deal with the death penalty or anything like that. So watching a film where the men had been sentenced to death for different crimes is so tough for me to understand at all. The film is done in a flashback form as the court case is happening, we get to see what happened to Leon Labushachagne as a teenager thrown into a truly horrible job.

Part of being a prison guard meant holding the prisoners and taking them up for death by hanging. He was given no support or any type of training in preparation for the truly monster of a role and having to watch many men being killed. Webber really did believe their was more to the case than it just being a random killing of the black men by the white prison guard. That something triggered the reaction. This is something that it takes some building up towards but it also makes you wonder if you can actually feel sorry for the young man or not. As he did actually kill in cold blood really.

I seem to have developed some kind of fandom towards Steve Coogan in these drama films. I think he does it very well and this one is a pretty tough to judge to be brutally honest. I do like courtroom dramas as they certainly have an interesting edge especially when you are unsure of the outcome. I feel they give a great stage for some very good acting. Garion Dowds puts in a decent performance as the prison guard and his shutdown of emotions was something that was impressive. Always interesting to see actors that you haven’t heard of before in films from a country that I probably have never actually watched before either. Something I found really amazing when researching the cast was Andrea Riseborough who is from Wallsend in Newcastle, looking at her theatre listings and the first one that comes up is from a production at The Custom’s House in South Shields, which is where I am from.

I guess the film pushes the boundaries about the death penalty and makes you wonder how people can do those horrible jobs and get to know someone before they are about to die. It certainly is not something that I could ever imagine doing, its so cruel and brutal. Again though this film demonstrates just how much it can effect someone but then lead to truly horrific consequences. I am not fully sure if I could recommend this film, I guess if you are interested in courtroom dramas it would be worth giving it a watch as it does show how countries differ with this.

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