A Sinister Mind and a Heart of Gold Clash in the South African Thriller ‘Home Wrecker’
The hottest thriller right now is none other than Home Wrecker, freshly out of South Africa. The film went straight to the Top Ten on Netflix a few hours after its release and is currently sitting pretty at #2 on the charts. Before its release, news outlets in South Africa raved about it, creating buzz among audiences that it was going to be THAT film. With all its chart and viewers’ success, the lingering question remains: Is Home Wrecker worth the hype?
The film centers around Tamara (Motshwa), a young woman whose dream of becoming a partner in her law firm makes her an easy target for a friend turned borderline psychopath, Kenzie (Makhene-Palumo). Kenzie not only tries to steal Tamara’s dream, but she also tries to steal her life. She drives a wedge between Tamara and her boyfriend, Clinton (Maps), repeatedly tries to seduce him, sabotages Tamara at work, and ultimately cooks up false allegations that have her fired from the law firm.
If the plot sounds familiar, it’s probably because similarities between the film and the 2009 thriller Obsessed starring Idris Elba and Beyonce can be drawn. A psychotic woman who is so obsessed with a man that she tries to be his woman, even if it means getting his current partner out of the way. Check. The psychotic woman tries and fails to successfully seduce the man. Check. When the man constantly rejects the psychotic woman’s advances, she goes on a rampage and destroys everything in her path. Check. Frankly, the only difference between Kenzie and Lisa (the psychotic woman in Obsessed) is that Kenzie skillfully utilizes three lethal weapons in her arsenal: obsession, overconfidence, and ambition. They end up being her undoing.
All the actors, both the main and supporting ones, deliver excellent performances that make the film a pleasant viewing experience, but the standout performer is none other than Letoya Makhene-Makumo. Some actors play the villain so well that it makes you wonder if they’re actually evil in real life. She’s in that category because her portrayal of Kenzie is almost bone-chilling.
Makhene-Makumo is the typical female villain – confident with the bravado of a lioness and rotten to the core – but there’s still depth to her character because she wasn’t born a villain. With an abusive stepfather and an oppressed mother, Kenzie learned how to harden her heart and developed thick skin at a noticeably young age. Although that’s no excuse for killing a person and sending another into a coma, her background does provide an insight into who the real Kenzie is: a broken woman who was never shown love.
Enhle Mbali Motshwa is also a delight to watch on screen, although she’s slightly overshadowed by her co-lead, Makhene-Makumo. As the heroine in the film, Motshwa’s character, Tamara, experiences the joys of having a loving family, a good job, and a loving boyfriend, all for it to be taken away literally in the blink of an eye by a jealous woman. Despite the challenges, she perseveres and gets her fairytale life back in the end.
Tamara looks like the predictable heroine who never gets her hands dirty, but she proves her power when she gets into a physical altercation with Kenzie. No one could’ve predicted that she would confront Kenzie and slap her into oblivion given her stick-by-the-books nature, but she did. That scene is probably one of the biggest highlights of the film.
Questions abound and, honestly, nothing is more unsatisfying than when a film leaves viewers with more questions than answers. The last we hear about Tamara’s male best friend, Lawrence (Mosese), is that he is in critical condition after being shot by Kenzie. What is his fate? Is he dead or alive?
Another big hole is the film’s inability to provide the real story behind the relationship between Tamara’s father, Lloyd (Louw), and Kenzie’s deceased mother. Were they lovers? If so are Kenzie and Tamara half-sisters?
Kenzie has ruined the lives of other people before, but she seems to have a burning resentment for Tamara. Even when she’s put in prison, her thirst for revenge isn’t quenched. Why does she hate Tamara so much? The film is mute on this. If the half-sisters’ theory is to be believed, then it makes sense for her to hate Tamara. Tamara had the life that she wished for growing up.
Netflix has given no word yet on the prospect of a second film, but if the Twitter streets are to be believed, then these questions might be answered next year when the second film makes its grand entrance to the streaming service.
Home Wrecker sends a cautionary tale to viewers, and it indeed calls for curious reflection: keep your enemies close and your friends closer because the minute you close your eyes, your friends might be the ones driving a knife into your back.
If you’re into the good-guys-defeating-the-bad-guys trope with a little bit of spice, then Home Wrecker should be your next binge stop. However, if your type is a film with a lot more edge and substance, look elsewhere.
Release Date: July 5, 2023
Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes, and 32 seconds
Streaming Service: Netflix
Director: Stephina Zwane-Groenewald
Cast: Letoya Makhene-Palumo, Enhle Mbali Motshwa, Craig Morris, Tsholofelo Mashishi, Nay Maps, Tshepo Howza Mosese, Nolo Phiri, Lumko Johnson, Sandile Makhoba, Huey Louw