Picks and Pans Review: The Power of One
This earnest essay on apartheid in South Africa recalls a dictum often attributed to Sam Goldwyn: "If you want to send a message, go to Western Union." Adapted from Bryce Courtenay's novel and directed by John (Rocky, The Karate Kid) Avildsen, the film documents the life of a South African orphan of English descent (Dorff takes on the character at 18) around World War II. Persecuted by Afrikaaners who hate the white English as much as the blacks, the lad defends himself by boxing. His mentors are inmates of a prison he visits for training, a white (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and a black (Freeman). Repelled by their brutal Afrikaaner guards, and taught democracy in the ring, Dorff tries to bridge the racial gap by teaching blacks to be teachers.
Dorff and Freeman are strong, the intentions are honorable, and Power is topical. It is also, however, too obvious for adults and too sophisticated for youngsters. (PG-13)