A seemingly average man with a lethal set of skills finds himself on the run in Travis Taute’s Indemnity. Cut from a similar cloth as films like The Bourne Identity and The Fugitive, this South African action thriller follows an ex-Cape Town fireman, Theo Abrams (Jarrid Geduld), accused of a crime he has no recollection of committing.
Once considered a hero by his family and peers, Theo has become a shell of his former self. Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), he is frequently consumed by haunting memories from his past. This not only puts a strain on his marriage to journalist wife Angela (Nicole Fortuin), but places his job in jeopardy as well. Placed on administrative leave until his psychiatrist Dr. Gillian Turnbridge (Susan Danford) deems him well enough to rejoin the force, Theo would rather numb his pain with alcohol instead of working through his emotions.
Drowning one’s sorrows rarely quells the sobering nature of death though. Theo discovers this firsthand when he wakes up one morning to find Angela dead beside him. Before he can process the ghastly scene, or how he will explain it to their young son, the police arrive at his door with an urgency that suggests they have already been alerted to the crime. Since they also already know that Theo is prone to mood swings, he immediately becomes the primary suspect in the eyes of the law.
Despite that, the murder is far from an open and shut case—a fact brought into stark reality for Theo when someone attempts to kill him during his transportation to the police station. Channelling his inner Richard Kimble, the former fighter-turned-fugitive must try to clear his name while evading two persistent cops, Detective Rene Williamson (Gail Mabalane) and retiring Deputy Police Chief Alan Shard (Andre Jacobs), and assassins with political ties.
As one can image, Taute’s film moves from one thrilling action set piece to the next as Theo literally fights for his life. Whether staging fights in the close confines of an elevator or a spacious abandoned factory, Taute knows how to grab one’s attention. The fact that Jarrid Geduld reportedly did his own stunts—making the sequence where Theo hangs outside a hotel window with nothing but a curtain to support him even more stunning—only helps to raise the stakes in the film.
The sense of real tension here allows one to forgive some of the ubiquitous plot contrivances. While not a ground-breaking film from a narrative perspective—Indemnity frequently finds itself getting tangled in its overly convoluted story—Taute succeeds in making Theo a character to invest in. He may not be the most likeable guy at first, but his plight remains relatable even as he breaks numerous arms on his path to justice.
What makes Theo such an intriguing character is that Taute ensures his condition never feels like a gimmick. The film not only takes the time to establish the character’s trauma, but to also flesh out the political conspiracy at the centre of it all. A pulsing action thriller with the right amount of depth, Indemnity delivers the goods.
Indemnity screened as a part of Fantasia Fest 2021.