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Director John Barker‘s The Umbrella Men: Escape From Robben Island is a disarming, infectiously entertaining heist movie that picks right up where its predecessor left off. Jerome (Jaques De Silva) and his crew have successfully pulled off a heist to save the beloved family club in the Bo Kaap. It appears all went well. Barker with co-writer Philip Roberts, isn’t going to let this ragtag group of bandits off so easily. What follows is more of what The Umbrella Men so much fun to watch

It seems that the money that Jerome used to buy his family’s club was counterfeit. This lands Jerome and Morty (Keenan Arrison) on a boat to the newly reopened Robben Island Prison. The remote island is like a South African Alcatraz. It’s surrounded by treacherous waters, surrounded by sharks, and oddly enough, has its own Bird Man (Soli Philander). While the boys languish in prison and attempt to devise an escape,  Jerome’s girlfriend Keisha (Shamilla Miller), Mila (Bronté Snell), and beloved Aunty Val (June van Merch) fend off the greedy Tarieq (Abduragman Adams), who still has his eyes set on demolishing the Bo Kaap for real estate. While in prison, Jerome creates alliances with fellow prisoners and soon discovers the Warden’s (Kurt Schoonraad) weakness.

It is a joy to see the women from the original cast featured so beautifully. Merch is a treasure as Aunty Val. Her wiley sensibilities and resourcefulness are a treat. Add to that leading lady Miller as Keisha and Snell as Mila, and we have a great triad of chemistry.  Why wasn’t this sequel called The Umbrella Women?

The stakes are higher this time for sure. Not only do the Umbrella Men have to save their club again, they have to pull off a nearly impossible escape from an island prison. It’s entirely reasonable to expect a sequel to outdo the original. The problem here is that Barker and Roberts really paint themselves into a corner. Adding to that is the unexpected structure of the film that sets certain expectations. I am dancing around spoilers here but the film is only partially what you may expect. Eventually, the story reaches for a few too many lifelines to wrap things up which really strains plausibility. By that time though, you are either in or out it wouldn’t matter either way.

The real star here is the stunning old quarter of Cape Town and the rich talent therein. De Silva is a suave leading man without having the arrogant swagger. Miller is a refreshing leading lady with a head on her shoulders and a kind energy. Merch is disarming as the matriarch Aunty Val. I wanted to see more of her. Finally, it is Barker and his talented band of performers and artisans who have created two irresistible heist pictures that are comical, fizzy entertainment. We have to have more. Of course, there will be more. I like these characters as much as I liked the story and that is pretty much the key to the whole film. See you on the next heist!

The Umbrella Men: Escape From Robben Island – 7 of 10