The Queenstown Kings is a lengthy and busy story, where 3 men as father, son, and stepfather enact so many plot points, they are almost too numerous to count.
Ezibeleni is a township in Queenstown, in the southeast part of South Africa, in which the legendary footballer Mkhulu Mahamba has set up a club in which his grandson Fezile plays. Fezile has the same kind of talent as his father and grandfather. Unfortunately, although father Buyile Mahamba is a famous pro with the Mamelodi Sundowns, he is a bit of a drunkard and estranged from Mkhulu and Fezile.
Mkhulu passes away on the pitch, but Buyile doesn’t make it to the funeral because he is arrested for drunk driving. His absence infuriates his son Fezile. Avoiding a harsh sentence, Buyile is allowed to do community service by coaching Fezile’s township team. However, Fezile’s stepdad Fana is already the coach. Fana is a policeman who coaches the team as a way to keep boys off the street while developing their discipline and fitness. Neither Fezile nor his stepdad want the drunkard Buyile around.
It takes awhile (like 2 hours) for Buyile to convince them that he can be an asset and help the team to compete in the Nedbank Cup tournament. Which comes in handy when Fana is shot in the line of duty. From there, the Queenstown Kings progress to the quarter finals versus the Mamelodi Sundowns. A Sundowns player and his girlfriend cheerleader (whom Fezile covets) help persuade the boy to switch teams before the big game.
The whole story gets pretty drawn out and complicated, and I barely covered half of the plot points.
About the soccer
From a technical standpoint, the soccer is not well-depicted on the pitch. What is more interesting is the chaos of the league play. The games are played in absolute mud baths. The team travels to away games on the flatbed of a truck, and they are pelted by projectiles in a gauntlet between the truck and the pitch. On a controversial call, a fan with a gun chases the away team back to the truck.
There are funny moments when the team travels to Johannesburg on a rickety airplane, followed by their wonderment when they stay in a nice hotel with white beds and plastic room keys. There are also sad moments when a teammate is unable to shake his drug addiction.
About the actors
The performances are good. Zolisa Xaluva as Buylie is believable on the scale of both dissolute and inspirational. Although I thought Likhona Mgali looked too old for the role of Fezile, he is actually a teenager in his first starring role. He had to overcome a severe stutter and learn how to play soccer, and he succeeded in the first task. I also learned that the actor Patrick Ndlovu, who plays the patriach Mkhulu, passed away in May-2023, so this may have been his last film.
The best part of the film is Zolisa Xaluva, an actor who really draws your attention, like Samuel Jackson. But otherwise, The Queenstown Kings is not a journey of twists and turns that keep you on edge. It’s more like driving down Las Vegas Blvd in bumper to bumper traffic and rubbernecking the activity on the sidewalk. You see some interesting things on your way, and eventually you arrive at the end of the Strip. But you don’t turn around to drive it again, because you’ve seen it all.
Maybe there are so many little plot points in this film, everything feels like filler? It is mildly entertaining, but I wasn’t moved by any of the characters or their stories.
6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6