‘The Umbrella Men’ (2022) Review: A Fun Heist Movie that Centres Historical Legacies

John Barker’s The Umbrella Men follows a ragtag group of musicians forced to rob a bank to save an iconic nightclub. This club is beloved in the community, and when a young man’s father dies, he is left to deal with the debts. Heist movies are difficult to execute. The intricate details of the plan need to be woven and threaded together, and The Umbrella Men does the job well. It’s an incredible cinematic ride that embraces the humour, with colourful music and incredible storytelling that takes the viewers on a fun ride.

After Jerome’s (Jaques De Silva) father passes away, Aunty Val (June van Merch) lends him his father’s beloved club, Goema, which is in debt with the bank. Frustrated, Jerome knows that neither he nor anyone in the community will be able to pay the money. Even though this debt is on his shoulders now, he has no interest in owning it anymore. Their family rival, Tariq (Abduragman Adams), tries to make a deal under the table with Jerome, but he knows better than to take it. Tariq is more interested in gentrification than preserving the culture inside the nightclub. If it is handed over to the family rival, all of Jerome’s family’s memories will be gone. So to deal with the nightclub’s debt to the bank, Jerome recruits a group of partially skilled robbers, one of which is his best friend, Mortimer (Keenan Arrison) and a fellow musician, Mila (Bronté Snell), to discuss how to rob a bank during Carnival.

The Umbrella Men is very much a comedy. Its characters get wrapped up in betrayals and double-cross that complicate and make the situation hysterical. With a balanced set of characters that explores their struggles, their individuality becomes an integral part of the movie. Jerome’s inheritance and debt from his father is a problem that he never wanted to have and yet, he is burdened with it. Even when the movie doesn’t get into the gritty details of his father’s debt, the urgency to pay it off is present. There is a sense of familiarity and kinship between Mortimer’s getting out of jail 10 years later. These selections of humane stories bring a fresh perspective to the heist genre, which has never been done before. But the most important question that hangs in the air is, will this team finish their mission successfully without any hiccups?

It’s a question that can only be found when you watch The Umbrella Men. One of the most interesting parts of the movie is that it adds colonial history into the narrative. Jerome and his team take back their ancestors’ inheritance since the legacy of the South African Apartheid are what ties them to their land and properties. There is a natural sense of justice that comes with taking back what is rightfully theirs, and The Umbrella Men allows them to be known as heroes rather than foes.

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